Tag Archives: Peter Capaldi

Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero

If you’ve never seen Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, drop whatever plans you have this evening and get on it. This is a curious one to review because no description could adequately impart its exact timbre. A hangout film, a low key culture clash dramedy, but more than anything specific or definable it’s just about a few Americans, a few Scots and one hard drinking Russian chilling out together in a small coastal village somewhere in Scotland.

Director Forsyth doesn’t so much construct a thought out script to screen here as he does take an anthropologist’s eye in telling the tale of an American oil conglomerate who sends their top fixer (Peter Riegart) to a small beach community in Scotland with hopes of buying up much of the coastline for an incoming refinery project. This would of course make the townspeople very rich, yet on the other hand take away their homes that have been in the family for generations and leave the natural environment bleeding. This isn’t so much an ‘us vs. them’ thing or any kind of struggle in any way though. Riegart (who is a fascinating dude and who I can only recall in two other projects, the cop opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask and a tiny cameo in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic) and his aloof assistant (Peter Capaldi) simply blend into the local scenery, chill out and get to know these folk on a naturalistic, believable scale of behaviour. Making friends with the local innkeeper (Dennis Lawson) who doubles as the town accountant and pretty much mayor too, singing songs, talking philosophy to the stars and basically unwinding. The oil company’s CEO (Burt Lancaster) has hilariously little interest in developing a refinery and would much rather sit on the beach with a telescope observing the heavens.

Films this subtly pleasant grow on you and are honestly a balm for the soul, an oasis for perception to vacation in for an hour or so when things can get rough, which for the past year has basically been the story of my life. Forsyth sees these people as not just characters in a script, there to serve story, but just that: people, human beings. Riegart’s oil man is nothing like the brash, cocky big city slicker that some filmmakers would have turned him into. He’s gentle, open to new experiences and ultimately in awe of the way of life he finds in this community. The townsfolk aren’t hostile, protective or scornful of him again like some films would paint them, they’re quaint, wrapped up in their elegiac daily rumination and see him simply as another dude they can have a pint with at the end of the day. I love and admire artists who have what they takes to make a film stocked with actual people instead of cardboard characters, and you don’t see that all the time. A wonderfully eccentric microcosm of two factions of society and not so much how they clash, but more how they cordially find themselves in the same place by circumstance and simply make the most out of it. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Bille August’s Smilla’s Sense Of Snow

Smilla’s Sense Of Snow begins with a specific inciting event: a young Inuit boy plummets off the roof of a multi storey building in Copenhagen, to his death. The only person who seems to care is Smilla (Julia Ormond), a girl who lives in the complex, is half Inuit herself and did her best to take care of the poor kid when his mother drowned in alcoholism. From there the film spirals into curious, unexpected thriller elements that seem to have left many viewers baffled (reviews over time haven’t been so kind), but it’s the uniqueness of this story that appeals to me, the way we find ourself wondering how such a simple and straightforward incident can lead to the kind of sequences you’d find in a Bond film. That’s the mark of an absorbing thriller, no matter how ‘out there’ people complain it is. Smilla deliberately cloaks herself in a facade of coldness not dissimilar from the snowy northern landscape around her and comes across as initially unpleasant, but when we see how far she’s willing to go and what she will risk to uncover the truth around the boy’s death, we realize there’s a heart in there and Ormond creates a mesmerizing protagonist. There is indeed a clandestine web of secrets, coverups and conspiracies revolving around the whole thing, and it’s great fun watching her follow the breadcrumb trail to where it all leads. She’s a withdrawn, introverted person, and these qualities don’t lend themselves to hands on detective work, but therein lies the gold mine of character development for her as she discovers perhaps one of the most bizarre string of events I’ve seen in a thriller. The supporting cast is full of gems, starting with Gabriel Byrne as her neighbour and love interest, just darkly charismatic enough to suggest that he may not be who he says he is. The late great Robert Loggia makes a stern but soulful appearance as her powerful father, who pulls some strings to help her out. Soon she’s led to a shadowy scientist (Richard ‘OG Dumbledore’ Harris) with ties to it all, and other appearances from Jurgen Vogel, David Hayman, Bob ‘Clever Girl’ Peck, Vanessa Redgrave, Ona Fletcher, Tom Wilkinson, a quick cameo from one of the Doctor Who actors and an excellent Jim Broadbent in full exposition mode. The eventual premise here is set up in an arresting prologue concerning a lone Inuit hunter observing a meteor fall to earth and cause an almighty mess on the tundra, serving to inform us right off the bat that although this film initially sets off on the trajectory of a straightforward murder mystery, there will be elements of the fantastical. Said elements proved to be either too far out there or too removed from the grounded opening for people to grasp hold of, but not me. I love the journey this one takes, I love the heroine we get to take it with, I’m awed by the stunning arctic photography every time and the story always draws me in. Great film.

-Nate Hill