8:00 PM, 6th May, 2011
The original version of True Grit was a perfect vehicle for the late John Wayne, who won an Oscar for his performance as Ruben 'Rooster' Cogburn, a boozy gunslinger with 'true grit'. Rather than simply remake a John Wayne classic, the Coen brothers have chosen to go back to the source material, Charles Portis's novel, and have adapted the story with their own brand of humour and visceral reality.
Mattie Ross (Steinfeld), a 14-year-old farm girl, hires a rough and tough US Marshal to track down Tom Chaney (Brolin), her father's murderer, in order to bring him to justice. Joining them is a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Damon), who is also in pursuit of Chaney. The unlikely trio encounters danger and surprises on their journey, and each has their endurance tested.
Jeff Bridges manages to put his own stamp on the role that John Wayne made famous, and Hailee Steinfeld is a stand-out as the indomitable Mattie. Also noteworthy is the film's cinematography by Roger Deakins (who has worked on many other films by the Coen brothers including No Country For Old Men). His Texan landscapes are beautiful and serve the interests of the story rather than call attention to themselves. Inevitably, for those viewers who are old enough, the movie invites comparisons with the original. The Coen brothers' version is less "heroic" and more cynical than the John Wayne version, but they are different approaches to the same material, each version worth seeing in its own right.
10:05 PM, 6th May, 2011
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story". (William Randolph Hearst)
All historical inaccuracies aside, Agora is the "historical" drama set in Alexandria during the 4th Century, as the rise of Christianity begins to challenge the Pagan theology of the Roman Empire.
The film concentrates on Hypatia, (Weisz) a teacher of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy in the great Alexandrian library. Orestes (Isaac), a pagan nobleman, and Davus (Minghella), a soon to be freed slave who converts to Christianity, languish for Hypatia’s affection. Unfortunately for these men, Hypatia is more focused on the constellations and earth’s connection with the sun.
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, who also co-wrote the film with Mateo Gil, Agora has been criticised by some as portraying the Christians as fundamentalist. Instead, Amenábar differentiates Agora from similar films and opposes the concept that Christians should always be depicted as either heroes or victims. The film is in a sense about extremism, but Amenábar rejects the idea that the film is anti-Christian as he even portrays the Pagans as ignorant and intolerant during the film.
Despite the screenplay having many inaccurate and unsubstantiated ‘historical’ viewpoints, Agora is a highly original film, telling the unfamiliar tale of Hypatia of Alexandria. Weisz’s performance as the dignified intellectual, ahead of her time, is outstanding. This gripping and emotional film is a powerful story of politics, religion, loyalty, love and more.