Toronto 2012: Simon's reviews part 5

Posted on September 13, 2012 by Simon Ward

Categories: Festival Reports

Argo
Ben Affleck’s Argo

Argo

Ben Affleck’s true biopic of a CIA mission to smuggle 6 American diplomats, posing as the crew of a shlock Star Wars rip-off, out of the Canadian embassy in Iran during the 1979 US hostage crisis is both a tense thriller and a witty take on the movie industry. The period and location setting is spot on and the performances decent if not spectacular. My only beef is the largely one dimensional depiction of Iranians as goons (with a single token ‘noble’ Iranian housekeeper). It’s a solid Awards contender which has good crossover potential at the box-office.

At Any Price

Set in the mid-west US farming belt, this is a far broader canvas than Bahrani’s earlier films, which include Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo. This explores the relationship between three generations of crop farmers as the family business faces chicanery and the youngest son attempts to escape his family business into stock car racing. It’s a well-crafted if surprisingly straight forward tale from Bahrani which lacks the focussed punch of his previous work despite it’s clearly higher budget and familiar name cast including Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron¬†and Heather Graham plus a typically brilliant score from Tindersticks member Dickon Hinchliffe.

Byzantium

Neil Jordan returns to familiar turf after Interview with a Vampire with this tired contemporary updating of familiar tropes which can’t compete against the likes of the excellent Let the Right One In. Set largely in a dilapidated British seaside town, it looks very stylish but has a risible script riddled with inconsistencies and cliche. Gemma Arterton plays a prostitute vampire (cue lots of wandering around in her underwear) looking after her younger 200 year old sister. Out tricking, she meets grief stricken loner Daniel Mays and moves into his humble b&b to start a brothel. But the b&b is an unlikely gorgeous building out of kilter with the rundown town in which it’s supposed to be situated. Mays is supposed to be broke, spending his last ¬£50 on a blow-job from Arterton, yet conveniently he has a spanking new Apple Mac for Arterton to surf the web and note how her past is catching up with her. The film basically treats its audience in a slapdash manner which is a shame as with a little more care there could possibly be an entertaining film here. Alas it’s let down by the details and feels exasperatingly dopey without a recognisable human being in sight.

Byzantium
Neil Jordan’s Byzantium

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