Best Attempt to Destroy a TV Show
David Brent: Life on the Road, is a terrible, terrible comedy. If that scientific fact hurts Gervais's feelings, then it's for him to get better feelings, not for me to get better facts. He has quite simply pissed on everything that made The Office great, managing to achieve nothing of its pathos, its humanity, not to mention its humour. I shouldn't be surprised. In an ironic twist, Gervais's career has gone the way of Andy from Extras once he made it big, and the comedies he's made barely rise above the level of When the Whistle Blows. The two seasons of The Office remain the most perfect seasons of any television comedy. I watch them religiously, and throw in quotes from them as part of my own comedy (see what I did there?). But if there is a God - and it's difficult to tell from Gervais's Twitter account whether he thinks there is - I will never watch Life on the Road again.
Hell or High Water is the film critics were contractually obliged to call this "elegiac." The story is a slight twist on the bank-robbing genre, with the banks themselves (and not the law enforcement) being the real enemy to the robbers. The strength of this film is not its story, however, but its script. Catherine Shoard wrote a good piece on the decline of dialogue in contemporary cinema. Hell or High Water does all it can to buck that trend. "Who the hell gets drunk on beer?" says Ben Foster in response to little brother Chris Pine's request that he not get drunk so early in the morning. This is just one example of the many innocuous but revealing interactions between the characters. Of course one cannot praise the dialogue without also praising the actors. The four leads are excellent. We know what Jeff Bridges can do (and he does it superbly here in tandem with Gil Birmingham), and Ben Foster may well be the most underrated actor of our generation, but it's Chris Pine who really stands out. I didn't think he had it in him, but this is a wonderful addition to his patchy CV. All told, Hell or High Water is a lament of sorts: a lament for a time when the South was different, and a lament for a time when films spoke.
There's nothing particularly special about Anthropoid. It's not bad, and it's not brilliant. It tells the story of a Czech resistance movement to Nazi occupation, and the plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Final Solution. Watch it or don't. but I got some place to be.
Arrival is as moving a moving picture as I've seen in quite a while. Comparisons with Malick, in particular The Tree of Life, are not out of place. If Tree of Life is an Augustinian prayer, then Arrival is an Augustinian treatise on language and time. The film is simple - almost cliched - in its construction (alien invasion, flash-backs, agitated military men), but it plays with these in mostly interesting ways, leading to a final twist which somehow you realise you knew all along. It is not perfect. For a film about language, it suffers from a lack of truly memorable lines. Even the verbally challenged Tree of Life managed to imprint some of its language as well as it images on me ("Father...Mother...always you wrestle inside me" and so on). But Arrival is the perfect antidote to the London Has Fallen's and Eye in the Skye's of this world. It is not the film we deserve, but it's the film we need.