Tag Archives: Andrew Garfield

Critics Choice at Beau Cinema: Silence

Silence movie posterAs pointed out by Wynter Tyson (one of the curators of the #CriticsChoice series at Beau Cinema) during his introduction to this screening of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the revered director has, throughout his career, often explored elements of faith in his work.

From the more obvious in the The Last a Temptation Of Christ to references in Gangs of New York to, arguably, a mirroring of a kind of corrupted faith in Wolf of Wall StreetSilence though follows Last Temptation in being a more direct take on the subject.

The film tells the story of a pair for Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) on a mission to Japan in the 17th century to continue the development of Christianity in the country and seek out the fate of their teacher, Padre Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

From the start, a fog shrouded scene featuring severed heads and a particularly unique and specific form of torture being administered to a group of Christian priests told from the point of view of Ferreira, it’s clear this is going to be a deep, dark journey and exploration of faith, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Silence movie - Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver

Garfield and Driver

While Scorsese is perfectly adept at everything from b-movie style fare to bright modern drama, here he more than proves why he is as regarded as he is as one of Hollywood’s best directors.

Every moment of Silence feels created with all aspects coming together to create something all-encompassing.

The sound design particularly stands out (as the title might suggest) being very low-key but highlighting what it needs to without resorting to the grand sweeping orchestrations or stereotypically ethnic sounds a lesser director might.

Silence - Liam Neeson

Neeson

This allows the visuals, which range from the rusticity beautiful to the genuinely brutal, to really stand out and strike in a way that is never melodramatic, giving the whole thing a sense of realism that is really absorbing.

While Liam Neeson’s appearance feels something like an extended cameo in the mould of his turns as Qui-Gon Jin in The Phantom Menace or Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins (just a little more serious) and Adam Driver brings an impressive intensity to Padre Francisco Garupe, it is Andrew Garfield who owns the film.

Garfield, as Padre Sebastião Rodrigues, is the film’s centre and really, despite the historical themes surrounding him, it is his journey that is the central plot.

We watch him struggle with his faith both physically and psychologically in a way that is (for the most part) brilliantly understated but gradually works its way into a truly effective and effecting place that shows a side to him I honestly never thought possible based on his pair of outings as Spider-Man (an unfair comparison I realise, but it makes the point).

Silence - Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson

Garfield and Neeson

While I’m not sure the film effected me on the spiritual level that it would Scorsese, or indeed anyone of a more religious or spiritual bent, Silence is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema.

It both manages to capture a period of history I knew not as much about and also allows space for a very real feeling story to be told without resorting to typical over the top cinematic tricks to manipulate its audience or rushing to explain every last thing, meaning it will likely sit in the back of my mind for a good while to come.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

the amazing spider-man 2 posterWith the contractual obligation, basic, but enjoyable, Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man a couple of years ago, things seemed to be heading in a reasonable direction for the web slinger.

Certainly that film had its flaws but its focus on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), along with some new intrigue based on a slightly tweaked Spidey origin story made for an enjoyable watch.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we start off in a reasonable place as, after a bit of a more in-depth look at what happened to Peter’s parents, we are dropped into the middle of a pretty well conceived chase through New York with police heading after a hijacked truck and Spider-Man joining in from above.

This does go a bit CG heavy in places (particularly as our hero juggles small orange phials of plutonium – surely it should be green?), but it gets the ball rolling pretty well as it sets up Peter’s clash between his life fighting crime and his life with Gwen.

Peter and Gwen

Peter and Gwen

What it also does is introduce us to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who is to become one of the films main problems, in a couple of senses.

The next portion of the film seemingly tries to pointlessly re-introduce us to everything the introduction has already re-established in terms of Peter’s relationships, whilealso setting up the film’s villain, comic book mainstay Electro, in one of the most convoluted super villain origins in a while, that never quite works.

Also introduced are Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) and his father Norman (who cameoed in the first movie) and the film tries to establish Harry and Peter as best friends in a way that never convinces, leading to some serious problems later on.

Then we get another big action scene in Times Square as Electro’s powers are introduced following some more relationship stuff between Peter and Gwen. While the first film handled this side of the story well, here the supposed emotion feels generic and empty and, while both actors do a decent job, they really don’t seem to have much to work with.

Electro

Electro

Another villain is introduced as things go on and we start to head in the same direction of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as the movie becomes over burdened with super villain exposition to such a degree that any hope of coherence or emotional attachment is lost and it all falls into by the numbers crash-bang-wallop.

While, thankfully, there aren’t the three villains of Raimi’s movie and there’s no ‘evil-emo-Peter’ song and dance number to cope with, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 descends into a bad video game like mess in its supposedly climactic action sequences, that totally negates the potential emotion of the film’s denouement.

Peter and Harry

Peter and Harry

This climax, which must have had Empire Strikes Back levels of potential on paper, is also completely blown by the scenes that follow which seem entirely inserted to set up not one but two possible sequels (I’m assuming The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Sinister Six… who knows what happened to 1 to 5).

These scenes may have worked, condensed, as a mid and post-credits sting, but, in the main body of the movie, just feel like a cop-out ending that is, in one case, the equivalent of hitting the ‘Reset’ on a SNES or Mega Drive.

While it could be argued there is a good film somewhere in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it is, unfortunately, buried in a layer of extraneous villains, product placement and sequel bait, that leaves the whole thing feeling messy and generally incoherent which, in a climate of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, just doesn’t cut it.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

With a reboot a mere five years after Spider-Man 3, Marvel and Sony prove that Spidey needed rebooting and something new could be added to the mythos.

Before I headed into the cinema tonight I will freely admit that I wasn’t sure that Spider-Man really needed rebooting yet, after all it was only 5 years ago that we were subjected to Spider-Man 3, which tarnished the legacy of the Sam Raimi/Toby Maguire trilogy by being, frankly, awful and wasting a couple of great villains in a mess of a movie.

So could director Marc Webb and his team, including 28-year-old Andrew Garfield as 17-year-old Peter Parker, add something new to the ‘Spidey-verse’ and bring some life back to the cinematic incarnation of this character?

Well, I’m happy to say, the simple answer is very much yes.

What the team behind this version of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has done has taken elements of the original comic, elements of the Ultimate run of the comics and elements of the Sam Raimi movies to create a new version of the characters that is still suitably reverential to the source.

The first thing that the movie does which works very well is introduce the back story of Spidey’s family in a slightly tweaked way which hints at what is to come before fast forwarding to Peter Parker as the geeky teenager he was always meant to be.

It’s here that Garfield really steals show as, despite being more than 10 years older than Peter, he is genuinely convincing as the teenager and I think this is where the film really works best, as it gives the whole thing a heart that is very much-needed and is a strong part of the Spider-Man comic books.

Accompanied by Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, delivering an equally spot on performance, they form an emotional heart to the story which works much better than the Peter Parker/Mary-Jane Watson relationship ever did in Sam Raimi’s film which, by the end, is near heartbreaking – especially for a formerly teenage geek like me.

Away from the emotional bits the film delivers big on the action too with The Lizard (aka Dr Curt Conners), as played by Rhys Ifans, working as a surprisingly effective villain who is given a few nice touches of a fabulously crazy split personality and a largely inexplicable, but perfectly suitable, underground lair.

As the film moves on and the action set pieces become the main thing, there was only one moment where it seemed to fall into CGI things hitting each other, but this was soon brought back down to earth and it never sinks as low as the likes of Transformers as all the set up (which does take quite a while) gives the fight scenes a sense of fear and emotion for Peter, Gwen and Dr Connors alongside the spectacle of Spidey vs The Lizard.

With supporting performances from Martin Sheen and Sally Field that really ground Peter Parker/Spider-Man in a family unit it makes for the best adaptation of the Spidey story on-screen yet and, with a sequel inevitably in the works, I hope they can keep up the balance between the Peter/Gwen relationship and the Spidey/villain events as well as they have here.

(Seeing Willem Defoe back as Green Goblin without the pointless helmet would make the sequel pretty much perfect too, but I think that might be wishful thinking on my part).

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