Monthly Archives: October 2015

Review – SPECTRE

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci, Andrew Scott, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Cert: 12A Running Time: 148 minutes

Spectacular death defying set pieces do not a Bond movie make. Like his drink of choice, a 007 outing needs a good shaken mix of action, romance, thrilling storytelling and suspense set against a backdrop of exotically gorgeous locations. It’s a delicate balance so gracefully achieved in Craig’s previous outings Casino Royale and Skyfall that both films are heavily referenced here, haunting Spectre with their superiority. All of the elements have been assembled off the check-list but some are only half baked, failing to rise to the standard of what has gone before.

Opening to the beating dark heart of Mexico City and the Day of the Dead festival as ghouls in striking costumes pack the streets, an impeccably dressed Craig moves among them, about to unleash his own brand of havoc on the unsuspecting dead. It’s a jaw-dropping setting to a genuinely nail-biting opening action set piece. Sent a posthumous message from Dench (deeply missed here) to track and kill a suspected Spectre assassin in Mexico, Bond takes his private mission too far, ending up in hot water with the new M, a gaunt and drawn looking Ralph Fiennes. Clearly the pressures of the new post are taking its toll, as the British government plans to merge their MI6 with MI5, under the watchful eye of Max Denbigh, Irish actor and Sherlock alumni Andrew Scott, playing him as an oily usurper bringing some of his Moriarty menace in his exchanges with Fiennes.

Meanwhile Bond is on the trail of the mysterious Spectre following a rendez-vous with the window of his Mexico target, Lucia Sciarra, played by Monica Belluci. She makes the best of it but her role feels diminished, a grade two Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher) from Tomorrow Never Dies and is used and set aside very quickly. Rome, however has rarely been so gloriously celebrated on screen, and director Sam Mendes along with cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, create an opulent canvas for our first look at Spectre in action, with a Dan Brown-esque meeting of the secret criminal syndicate. A resulting car chase through the city streets, right up to the doors of the Vatican is beautifully shot and orchestrated and the introduction of Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, last seen as Drax in Guardians of The Galaxy), a hulking foe to which Bond will inevitably end up in hand to hand combat, suggests a Roger Moore/Richard Kiel’s Jaws type meeting of fists and smarts.

The excellent Christoph Waltz, who brings spark to all his performances is criminally underused and the greatness witnessed in particular in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained is sadly missing here. Waltz’ primo baddie, as head of Spectre is underwritten with a ridiculous sub plot involving Bond’s childhood that goes nowhere and very little screen time in terms of villainy compared to Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. If the threat is not present, the film has no urgency and as the second half of the two hours eighteen minutes running time rolls in, any sense of pace and immediacy has been whisked away, sunken into the Tyber with MI6’s Aston Martin DB10.

With the introduction of Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) the film becomes disarmingly inept. The romance between her and Bond is so clumsily handled that they are no more than caricatures playing out the usual Bond expectations. There is little or no chemistry between them making emotional outpourings at key moments seem superficial.

A finale which serves us up images of the past including Le Chiffre and Javier Bardem’s Silva are reminders of better films with superior plotting, thrills and execution. Spectre will no doubt please hard-core Bond fans who return for the very clichés the franchise present but after Skyfall the bar was raised and the expectation of the ultimate prestige picture lies before them. Unfortunately it’s a very slick commercial for Tom Ford’s gorgeous tailoring and numerous designer eyewear that shade Spectre from its glaring flaws.



Queen of Ireland

When director Conor Horgan began shooting a documentary about Irish drag queen Panti Bliss (aka Rory O’Neill) in June of 2010, who could have foretold quite the story it would become or the national treasure that would emerge like an exotic bird to stand with the politicians at Dublin Castle on May of this year as the YES victory on gay marriage was celebrated.

By topping and tailing the film with direct-to-camera addresses by Panti, the audience is invited in to share her story as it has unfolded from the very beginning. That this ‘giant cartoon woman’ found herself an accidental figurehead for Ireland’s LGBT community is a terrific story and The Queen of Ireland shows us how the little boy from Ballinrobe, County Mayo would transform into Panti Bliss, ‘a clown, a court jester’ that would become an inspiration to so many. O’Neill’s story is wonderfully and bravely told by both Horgan and O’Neill himself. He’s not afraid to lay it all out there and his interviews are deeply personal, moving and emotional.

From home movies showing O’Neill and his siblings playing in their garden as children in Ballinrobe, to the bright heady lights of London and Tokyo and the drag scene in which Panti Bliss was conceived, Horgan showcases a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis to a bright neon accepting world, albeit abroad. A return to Dublin in the 1990’s to a new underground LGBT movement following the decriminalisation of homosexuality, makes for an intriguing subject and tells a wider story of what it was like to be gay in Ireland then and and how far the country’s stance has shifted since.

Beautifully paced, the film shifts effortlessly from personal stories from O’Neill’s family, friends and collaborators to his activism, growing the scale of the story while never losing that personal approach. Detailing the events of January 2014 when Rory gave an interview on The Saturday Night Show on the subject of homophobia, he found himself in very hot water, kick starting ‘Pantigate’ and a speech that would echo around the globe when Panti took to the Abbey Theatre stage.

The film poignantly explores the moment when the impact of it began to shake the ground and you witness not only the gay community but the community of Ireland and its diaspora, heralding Panti as a force to be reckoned with on LGBT rights. Moving to the YES campaign before the vote, Horgan shows Rory going door-to-door in Dublin literally asking strangers to accept him as he is and to give them the same rights as heterosexuals. Again it’s delicately handled by Horgan and O’Neill himself is such a smart articulate guy, that every segment is engrossing and thought provoking.

Everyone should see the Queen of Ireland. It not only celebrates Panti Bliss, it celebrates all of us, gay or straight, no matter how different you are to the person standing next to you. The fact that it’s to be shown in our cinemas makes perfect sense. It is huge in scope in terms of its story and its message and of course Panti is larger than life itself, entertaining, funny and insightful. The Queen of Ireland also packs an emotional punch that will stay with you long after and have you recommending it to your nearest and dearest. Go see.


You can catch my interview with Rory O’Neill and Conor Horgan for here