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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.23.11] United Kingdom movie review thriller

Year: 2011
Directors: David Hare
Writers: David Hare
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 5 out of 10

The first film by David Hare in almost fifteen years is a fairly stylish political thriller starring Bill Nighy, Rachel Wiesz, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Judy Davis, Ewan Bremner and Felicity Jones. Quite an amazing cast you'll agree, but is the film any good?

Sadly, not really. Anyone who was let down by Polanski's last film "The Ghost" will recognise that we're in startlingly familiar territory with Page Eight, but without even the quirky humour that Roman injects into his films (sandwiches anyone?). The supporting cast are uniformly excellent, but it's Nighy who seems to have been injected with tranquilisers as well as botox (more on that later), and the script that ultimately lets it down.

The basic plot set-up is that Johnny Warricker (Nighy) has been working for MI5 since his days at Cambridge with Gambon, who is the head of their intelligence analysis division. One day Gambon, who knows his heart is dodgy and his days are numbered, puts together a dossier which implicitly shows that the UK government was secretly aware of classified torture prisons around the world that the USA had denied setting-up, thus showing that the Britain has been systematically lied to for years by their allies, and could cause massive political scandal. Throw into this some father-daughter relationship troubles between Johnny and his daughter Julianne (Jones), a neighbour with a shady past linked to murders in Israel (Wiesz) and a scheming co-worker (Davis) and you've got your standard British thriller set to a London backdrop. The trouble is it doesn't really have anything new to say or any fun to impart, it just kind of trudges along with a predictable storyline in which a hero Does What He Has To Do.

One of the parts that does work though is the Fiennes role, as he plays a nasty Prime Minister who may not give a care in the world about international policy, so long as he can have a refill of his brandy and bag the next election. His fireside chat with Warricker was probably the highlight in an otherwise empty film. Davis is also pretty good, and Bremner has some fun as a gay journalist whose interest isn't so much in politics but in that lusty waiter over there, and making sure his tan line is even. Moments such as this reminded me of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" but this is more, "Peck Peck, Tap Tap" (I made a joke!). The direction of the film is not bad, in as much as the camera moves without falling over and London looks pretty at night, but this isn't the work of an auteur and much of the shots are basic and functional, and for a film with many a-list stars I'm surprised it looks so much like a television drama.

On leaving the cinema we overheard a guy suddenly start talking about what the deal is with Nighy's face and how his expression seems not to change from scene-to-scene, whether he's attending a tense meeting at MI5 headquarters, making-up with his daughter or even bellowing with rage. We agreed straight away that the most interesting thing about Page Eight is probably the geography of Bill Nighy's face... which cannot be a good sign. A director once told me that the worst kind of film is one that you leave and immediately discuss where to eat, and Page Eight is exactly the kind of film he was talking about. The more time that passes the less I care about this film, which also cannot be a good sign.

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Cyrus (11 years ago) Reply

I don't know why people persist in these tediously right-on films*. We already know that the Security Service and SIS knew that the Americans were involved in torture and that Blair was an empty, lying sleazebag. So why reiterate it over and over again?

When will they stop making political thrillers set in the era of Bush and Blair and realise that we are now in the era of Obama? (Of course, I ignore that Barry is a Democrat and will therefore be protected, as the total collapse of the American anti-war movement after his election and despite his warmongering demonstrates).

*OK, I do: to show how right-on they are and to demonstrate their distaste at having voted for Blair. Another Arts Council circle-jerk.


lee954 (10 years ago) Reply

My two word review; 'nothing happens.'

I thought it was a very slow opening episode of a series...but I was mistaken; it was merely the most boring ninety minutes of drama I've ever seen. I kept on watching just to see if something would happen - but it didn't.

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