Tag Archives: Jamie Bell

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Peter Jackson has made a name for himself as one of the most ambitious, resourceful filmmakers out there, and his version of King Kong isn’t so much a film as it is literally a three hour trip to another world. The 1930’s Kong was a marvel of its time, admittedly now very dated, but this film is really something else, and for me is the minted definitive version of the story, brought to howling, lush, terrifying and affecting life by Jackson and his army of F/X wizards. The main beef people take up is its way too long, and I’m not even going to try and argue. Of course it’s too long. Of course. But I love it anyways, and part of what makes it so immersive and captivating is the length. We spend almost two hours in a New York prologue leading to oceanic escapades before the ship even finds the island! You almost get so tied up in smoke n’ soot vaudeville and scenic intrigue that you forget that there’s a giant gorilla on the way, among many, many other things. Jackson reaches for the stars here, sails off the edge of the map past the borders of the known world and awakens something dark, primal and enthralling in the viewer: a genuine sense of wonder, like films were always meant to since the beginning, and these days don’t often achieve. He also films in a way that you really feel scope, size and the tactile, spacial dynamics of his world, from the gorgeously foreboding mega forests of skull island to the vast expanse of an open ocean to the titanic skyscrapers of old world NYC. Naomi Watts makes a perfect Ann Darrow, her striking femininity harbouring a deeply intuitive courage that ultimately spells her survival and acts as a magnet to Kong, who is a wonder in himself and played right out of the park by Andy Serkis. Jack Black and Adrien Brody embody the hustling filmmaker Carl Denham and the wiry playwright turned adventurer Jack Driscoll neatly. Jackson takes time in getting to know the supporting characters as well, and in a film with this much breathing room, who wouldn’t? Thomas Kretschmann steals every scene as the intense, heroic Captain Englehorn, Evan Parke is implosive as the first mate and Jamie Bell does terror to a turn as a crew member. Skull island itself is the real star of the show here; along with the living, breathing and feeling vision of Kong, the primordial rock is home to all manner of threatening, awe inspiring ecological splendour including vicious T-Rex’s, graceful herbivores, cunning raptors and more. Two sequences in particular test the boundaries of comfort in the viewer and push into almost outright horror as the crew falls victim to an insect pit home to the kinds of spiders, worms and other creepers you wouldn’t want to find in your worst nightmares, as well as the scariest bunch of indigenous tribes-people I’ve ever seen in a film. Nothing quite compares to the otherworldly atmosphere Jackson infuses in the island, we really feel like we’re in a place that time forgot and the attention to detail is remarkable. In a film full of human characters, Kong wins us over as the most emotionally relatable, a rampaging beast whose softer side is brought out by Ann, until the harsh realities of the human world catch up with them in a flat out spectacular aerial smack down set atop the Empire State Building where we see how savage behaviour begets the same back tenfold when you mess with a creature of his size, it’s a heartbreaking sequence. This is a testament to what can be done in film, from effects to world building to period authentic detail to music (the score by James Newton Howard is brilliant) and more, all combined in a piece of adventure cinema for the ages, and one that reminds us why movies are so fun in the first place.

-Nate Hill

Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer: A Review by Nate Hill 

Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer is a cold affair in more ways than one. It treats it’s characters with the same icy indifference as the storm which batters the few remaining people on the planet, confined to a locomotive that speeds around the globe in perpetual motion, humanity’s last ditch effort against a cataclysmic ice age of their own making. The train is designed to house the poor and disenfranchised folks in filthy barracks at the back end of the train, while the rich and privileged elite live in glamerous excess at the front. What better metaphor for brutal classism? A confined vehicle from which their is no escape, dwindling resources and rising tensions eerily serve to remind us of our own situation on this rock. Chris Evans grimes up his Captain America image as the ruthless leader of the poor, rebelling traincar by traincar and waging an ongoing war against the upper class and their minions, his sights set on reaching the engine. Unfortunately they’re up against some nasty security forces dispatched to end their rebellion at any cost, including axe wielding henchman, a J.T. Walsh lookalike who is tougher to kill than a terminator and an absolutely nutballs Tilda Swinton, unrecognizable under a dairy queen cake of makeup and a muddled northern England accent, dryly  playing the tyrannical head of propaganda. Aside from the obvious social satire that hits home, the film is also a rollicking action slam dunk with some jaw dropping, delightfully implausible set pieces and truly inspired visual design. Each train car has a different theme and purpouse, from a self sufficient aquarium (anybody want some sushi?) to a terrifyingly cheerful classroom where kiddies are brainwashed by a crackhead of a school teacher (Alison Pill in overdrive), and eventually the engine itself, a technological marvel presided over by a lonely, twisted and miscast Ed Harris as the architect of the whole deal, a role better suited for a Patrick Stewart or a Malcolm McDowell type. John Hurt plays the other half of the brains, stuck in squalor at the caboose, and there’s work from Ewan Bremmer, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Ah Sung Ko and Kang Ho Song as a resourceful explosives expert with his own agenda. The themes of this film will be difficult for some to swallow, which is what I imagine led to it’s piss poor marketing, at least in North America. The topical, callous and icy blunt truths about society, sacrifice and oppression won’t be willingly received  by many, least of all the powers that be, who don’t want such notions floating around freely. That’s what makes it important though, and sets it a step above most. It reaches near taboo levels of thought, displaying ugliness and outrage that seems scarily logical the more you think about it. Plus it’s a humdinger of an action adventure flick. Strong stuff, both in visual and narrative departments.