Fresh off Men in Black (3), I decided it was only sporting to next give The Woman in Black (2012) a chance. In all seriousness, I had been looking forward to this film but missed it in theaters. I needed very little convincing aside from the fact that it was a horror movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter et al) which was advertised as a counterpoint to the gore-heavy genre that horror has become recently.
The film has a decent amount to recommend it. The acting was pretty excellent, especially Radcliffe and Roger Allam. The scares were of the sort promised (emphasizing spooky rather than gore), and were actually quite finely done. The overall atmosphere was enhanced by setting the film in the rather distinctive Victorian England. All of that being said, however, the script was inexcusably boring. What you’re left with is a somewhat compelling main character wandering from scare to scare with a frustrating lack of motivation. I’m glad Hollywood is willing to recommit to scary movies that don’t rely on gratuitous amounts of gore, now the thing is to just get them to start making good ones.
It happens every year, that I find myself desperately hoping a horror film will recapture the outstanding quality of the first Paranormal Activity. Chernobyl Diaries was definitely not that film. Basically what you have here are six thoroughly uninteresting main characters wandering around a pretty awesome setting getting picked off one-by-one by some vague evil that’s never really given any sort of identifying features. I really didn’t have any idea how you could go wrong with “Horror movie set in Chernobyl actually freaking filmed in Chernobyl.” Now I know.
Confession time. I did something rather unbecoming of someone who plays at writing reviews with any small degree of authority or objectivity. I watched a film with the premeditated purpose of disliking it and writing a negative review because I disliked the political context of its subject. It’s the sort of thing where if you do it often enough, you end up developing a reputation for being a “hack” that never quite goes away. Naturally, the film responded by not being what I expected at all.
The Iron Lady is a film about Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister Great Britain ever had. She was also a member of the Conservative Party, and is noted for privatizing large segments of the British economy and largely dismantling the welfare state. The film does not, however, go overmuch out of its way to celebrate her conservatism. Nor is it the soaring biopic I anticipated. Instead, what we basically get is a deeply human film driven by the incredible character performance of Meryl Streep.
We see Thatcher in multiple stages of her life, including (most jarringly) as a frail woman of failing physical and mental health. This is a deeply human film, not a political one. It would be an understatement to say it wasn’t what I expected at all. I didn’t especially care for the film and its rather directionless narrative, but Streep was (as you’ve likely heard by now) pretty outstanding.
I haven’t seen the original version (1972), but with this cast and Kenneth Branagh directing, it should be immediately obvious that Sleuth (2007) wasn’t in any way phoned in. I really wouldn’t have needed anything but the compelling interplay between Michael Caine and Jude Law to maintain my interest in this film for 90 minutes. I’ll keep this short and sweet: great writing, brilliant acting, spectacular film.