The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand-budapest-hotel-filmWes Anderson for some time now has been one of the biggest indie directors around. With a slight dip in form occurring with 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, both of which are enjoyable but lacking a certain heart, Anderson seems to have rediscovered himself following on from his animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. So in 2014 he returns with The Grand Budapest Hotel, a sprawling crime caper with a cast bigger than one of those terrible ‘New Years Eve’ type movies. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the spectacularly posh/camp owner of the Hotel, M. Gustave, a character who has always had a special relationship with his older lady visitors is gifted a priceless painting by one of his closest visitors when she is murdered. This doesn’t go down particularly well with her sons though and this begins a manhunt for Gustave with an aim to frame him for the murder.

This is perhaps Anderson’s most precise work, known for his meticulous style The Grand Budapest takes this a new level, at least in live action. It’s so perfectly framed with every little detail designed to be just so the film often feels like an animation in the same vein as Fantastic Mr Fox. And here the script really suits the style, the script and the aesthetic merge together to create what could well be Anderson’s best realised comedic universe yet. The casting is flawless too, Fiennes’ performance is inspired as the rather bizarre but inifinitely likeable Gustave and other highlights come from his lobby boy, newcomer, Tony Revolori who is Gustave’s protege and best friend. Willem Dafoe as Jopling, is a psychopathic son of the murdered Madame D. and with very few lines he brings probably the most laughs of anyone. The cast is so large, though, and all of them perform so well that I can’t mention tham all as much as I would like. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a bit slow to kick things off and it does spend slightly too long setting the scene but when events do start picking up it is well worth the wait and as it builds to a climax the visuals become more and more impressive in equal measure to the humour. This is a prime example of an auteur confident, accomplished and at the top of his game.

This may not be a film for people who aren’t familiar with Anderson but for those who are this is certainly one of his best. And a prime example of his unique style. Although I wouldn’t go as far as this is his best film this continues a blinding run of form for the writer-director and is up there with his best works.

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Skyfall

Right from the off we know that Skyfall means business. The pre-credit sequence is a frantically paced action scene, most of which takes place on top of a moving train. It’s just classic Bond. But from then on the film doesn’t let up. You’re never far off another action set piece and the films two and a half hour run time, making it one of the longest Bonds ever, actually just flies by you.

We have a lot to thank Javier Bardem for. His creepy, Hannibal Lecter-esque villain has the ability to send a chill down your spine. He is made even scarier when he reveals his traditional Bond villain facial disfigurement. The make up used for the shot, that looks a bit like the Dark Knight’s Two Face, is some of the most realistic I’ve ever seen. Silva attacks Bond and M in a much more personal way than is found in most Bond’s and his main aim is to actually kill M making the entire story a much more personal affair.

While Bond is actually given rather a large amount more back story as well, making the empathy for his character hit an all-time high. The plot being on a more personal level, though, doesn’t mean that the action loses out, this film features some of the best sequences not just from the Bond series but from action film history. One of my personal favourites being the one set in London’s tube station. The finale is suitably shocking and pleasing, I left the cinema with a massive smile on face but not five minutes before that I was close to tears. Having most of the action set in London also makes it all feel more real and familiar as opposed to Quantum of Solace’s globe trotting.

All in all, I think it’s true what they say, this really is the best Bond there has ever been. Please, please, please get Mendes back to direct the next Bond outing!