8:00 PM, 21st February, 2009
The Duchess is a film based on the real life of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire. Married off at the age of seventeen, Georgiana (Knightley) was the ideal eighteenth century aristocratic wife: beautiful, witty, obedient, but more than a little naïve. She knows her sole duty in life is to produce an heir.
Married to the fifth Duke of Devonshire (exquisitely played by the always sexy Fiennes), Georgiana soon realises the match of her dreams has become a gilded cage; so she looks to other outlets in search of meaning and freedom: fashion, society, politics and flirtation help fill the void left by her marriage.
Two people help to define Georgiana in this film - Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell), her only friend and Charles Grey (Cooper), the future Prime Minister. Both will have an impact on her life and the choices she makes, in ways she could never imagine.
Knightley is excellent in this film - I often feel she cruises through movies using her looks, but in The Duchess she seems to embody Georgiana, while Fiennes perfectly portrays the Duke - he embodies the quintessential eighteenth century aristocrat, the kind of man who would be abhorrent today.
My only criticism of this film is that it focuses too much on Georgiana the person, rather than her public persona: as a public figure she was ahead of her time. Politically influential, Georgiana was at once feted and censured. Whatever my own view though, The Duchess is a wonderful illustration of one of the first tabloid figures in early modern England.
10:04 PM, 21st February, 2009
Don Cheadle stars as Samir Horn, a former U.S. Army operative who now sells explosives to Muslim extremists. When an arms deal goes awry, Horn is captured and imprisoned, where he meets the leader of a terrorist organisation who takes him in. Hot on his trail is FBI Agent Roy Clayton (Pearce) who, despite the overwhelming evidence, can't seem to decide where Horn's true allegiances lie.
If you, like most audiences when this came out, are thinking "Please, not another post-September 11th terrorism film!" then have I got a surprise for you. Believe it or not, Traitor is actually a well paced, intriguing spy thriller with a brilliant ending that only just so happens to be set in our murky times.
I certainly didn't have high hopes: Traitor was written and directed by Jeffery Nachmanoff, whose biggest credit to date was scripting The Day After Tomorrow, and is based on a story by ((ndash)) of all people ((ndash)) Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the film's sympathetic and fascinating look at life inside a terrorist organisation.
Cheadle simply excels at playing conflicted characters and can say more with one expression than lesser actors do in their entire careers. Pearce, on the other hand, sadly isn't given much to do.
If you've either somehow managed to avoid the onslaught of War on Terror films of late, or dutifully saw every last one, make it a point not to miss Traitor ((ndash)) it's one worth seeing.