Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards



End Transmission


The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick - Die Angst Des Tormanns Beim Elfmeter (1972)


After being sent off for angrily contesting a goal as offside, goalkeeper Josef Bloch (Arthur Brauss) wanders aimlessly through a strange town, visiting the local cinema and picking up Gloria (Erika Pluhar), an attractive blonde cinema cashier. Following their night of passion, Bloch arbitrarily strangles her to death, before boarding a coach to visit old flame Hertha (Kai Fischer) in a quiet village on the East/West border. 



The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a somewhat overlooked 1972 film from Wim Wenders that has been taken off the shelf, dusted off, restored and given a cinema release. Based on a novel by Peter Handke, it's an existential delight that owes much to Albert Camus' classic 1942 novel L’Étranger and to Camus' own previous occupation as a goalkeeper with Racing Universitaire d'Alger. Our protagonist has the same emotional detachment as Meursault, the man who felt nothing at his mother's death and who goes on to kill a man in the novel by Camus. Just like him, we're given no explanation for Bloch's homicidal behaviour or why he neither feels nothing at the sight of the body of a missing schoolboy, nor reports his findings to the police. 



Equally, the indifference he shows to his future goes without explanation too. The closest we get to it is in the film's final moments, when the meaning of the title becomes clear. In this scene, Bloch is watching a football match and strikes up a conversation with another spectator, a travelling salesman who, like him, is just passing through the town. Bloch tries to explain what he feels about football from the goalie's perspective, specifically the dilemma he is presented with regarding which way to go each time he faces a penalty. This dilemma is one that the village's policeman shares with Bloch in a late night conversation regarding having to second guess which way an offender is going to run. For Wenders, the moment between the goalie and the opposing player is a psychological confrontation and it serves as a parallel to Bloch's current situation: he hasn't gone on the run, isn't sure or indeed seemingly all that concerned about the possibility that the police may be on his trail, he is just existing from day to day in plain sight, feeling nothing once again. It's easy to see why Wenders would go on to so successfully adapt Ripley's Game as The American Friend in 1977, as Bloch is very much cut from the same cloth as Patricia Highsmith's literary anti-hero.



It's not all heavy existential ennui though; there's a fine streak of bone-dry humour playing out across the film that allows Brauss' otherwise murderous impassive demeanour the opportunity to afford this comic relief with a winning deadpan reaction. However, I could have done without the excessive use of Jürgen Knieper's monotonous score as it really rather began to grate, though I think that perhaps added to the stifling nature of the slow, introspective narrative.


Monday, 29 January 2018

RIP Howard Lew Lewis

Sad to hear that comic character actor Howard Lew Lewis passed away last week at the age of 76.



He was a regular  fixture on our screens in the '80s and '90s and a particular favourite for kids like me; playing rather dopey, slobby characters like Rabies in Tony Robinson's classic children's sitcom Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, Blag in Chelmsford 123 and, perhaps most memorably of all, Elmo Putney in Brush Strokes (pictured below with co-star Erika Hoffman)  



He also effectively reprised his role as a merry man for Hollywood popcorn epic Robin Hood: Price of Thieves alongside Kevin Costner, and provided the voice of Obelix alongside Craig Charles' Asterix in 1994's Asterix in America. Prior to taking up acting, Lewis was a computer operator in the RAF and continued a career in telecommunications at management level.

Unfortunately, Lewis was suffering from ill health such as diabetes and dementia in recent years and had been confined to a community hospital in Edinburgh, sadly against his wishes, when he passed away. It was reported at the weekend that his daughter, Debbie Milazzo had lodged a complaint regarding her father's treatment and the circumstances surrounding his death which Police Scotland have confirmed they will investigate. Ms Milazzo claims that Lewis had been placed on a regime of high-dose sedatives and maximum-strength opiate painkillers that would normally be prescribed for the terminal phases of a particularly malignant disease. She claims that, as her father was not in such a phase, this was an unnecessary treatment plan and the decision to place him on it is suspicious. 

It's a sad end for a man who brought so many laughter. 

RIP.

Churchill Overkill


With Gary Oldman tipped for the Oscar this year for his performance in Darkest Hour, many have proclaimed him to be the definitive Churchill. But, well I don't know about you, but don't you think we've had enough biopics about Winston Churchill now?

We've had Albert Finney in 2002's The Gathering Storm, and Brendan Gleeson in 2009's Into The Storm. We've had Michael Gambon in 2016's Churchill's Secret and Brian Cox in last year's Churchill. We've had Timothy Spall appear as Churchill in The King's Speech from 2010 and John Lithgow as Churchill in Netflix's acclaimed drama series The Crown. We've even had both Andy Nyman and Richard McCabe play him in Peaky Blinders. And all of these are just those of note made in the last 15 years or so, there's plenty more, and (perhaps asides from Peaky Blinders which shows him to be a ruthless horse trader) all of them say the same thing: that Churchill was The Greatest Briton Who Ever Lived™.

Now far be it from me to say that Churchill wasn't a remarkable man who helped obliterate Hitler's dream of a thousand year Reich, but I've always believed that this canonisation of Churchill to be deeply worrying. To my mind, Churchill was simply the right man for the job at the time. In short; he was a wartime prime minister, terrible in peace time. None of these biopics ever explore any other aspect of Churchill's life, character or political career and it's immensely frustrating because they're choosing to ignore a lot of things that need addressing about the man.

Churchill was not a saint and many would struggle to view him heroically. This is a man who said "I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion". In 1943 4 millions Bengalis died from a famine he later claimed was their own fault because they "bred like rabbits". 

A year later in 1944 he ordered the British army to open fire on protesters on the streets of Athens, killing 28 civilians and injuring 120. These Greeks were partisans who fought with the British against the Nazis and the reason Churchill turned on them was because he feared their communist tendencies. He supported the right wing Greek government and wanted to see the monarchy restored. He employed former RUC commander Charles Wickham to train Greece's security forces. His actions helped shape the far right movement that continues in Greece to this day. 

His actions in India and Greece were not uncharacteristic either, there's several countries blighted by Churchill's less than saintly character: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kenya, and South Africa, the latter with its disgusting British run concentration camps and which Churchill argued that black people should be exempted from voting. He was a keen proponent of chemical warfare against Kurds and Afghans, believed in the superiority of white people, and also advocated sterilisation and labour camps for 'degenerate Britons'. Perhaps he considered the striking miners of Tonypandy as degenerates when he sent the troops in to the area  to maintain order in 1910? A decision he made again in Liverpool just a year later - this time the soldiers opened fire, killing two people. Also that year Churchill dabbled in the Sidney Street siege between some 200 police and Latvian anarchists, ordering the police to let the house the gang were hiding in burn down.

You can read more about this less than glorious side to Winston Churchill both here and here.

All I'm saying is if these countless biopics don't address all sides of the man then aren't we just whitewashing his legend? And isn't it time we started bringing the lives of other notable politicians to the screen - where, for example, are the biopics of Clem Attlee or Nye Bevan?

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Good Father (1985)



Adapted by Christopher Hampton from the 1983 novel of the same name from Peter Prince, The Good Father is a 1985 film directed by Mike Newell from the early days of Film Four. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Bill Hooper, a man who has become so embittered by the fact that his separation from his wife (Harriet Walter) has meant that he is only allowed one day a week with their infant son, that he's effectively lashing out at the world around him 24/7 - indeed, even the merest turn of his head is delivered with a whipcrack intensity. It's the perfect role for this mid career Hopkins and it tackles it with an overwrought relish, but his dissatisfaction means he is far from a likeable character: you see, he's the kind of weekend dad who now loudly proclaims  all women to be 'bitches', whilst wailing repeatedly at the injustice of a society that dares to take the rights of women into account. 


This attitude is in stark contrast to Bill's radical youth some twenty years earlier which, by his own admittance, saw him both supportive and involved in the cause for greater equality (although his memory of these times are recalled with a notable, sour jealousy at the fact that he was making tea whilst the women chatted, argued and laughed - kind of missing the point there Bill, you can't complain of feeling briefly left out when the women you were allegedly supporting had been left out for centuries) but now, wherever Bill's caustic eye looks, he sees a society full of lesbian activist feminazis who view men with scorn (in one scene his liberal lawyer friend played by Miriam Margolyes - who else? - is en route to a CND march  wearing a T-shirt which proclaims that 'All Men Are Rapists') and support the theory that the male of the species is somehow subhuman and surplus to requirements. 



In short, Bill Hooper's a man on course for a meltdown and Hopkins plays it for all it's worth. If you told me at the start of the film that The Good Father was actually about how a misogynistic divorcee seeks some twisted revenge on womankind by killing every one that he came across I wouldn't have been surprised! Thankfully though, that isn't the plot. The plot comes in the shape of Jim Broadbent's rather sweetly pathetic teacher Roger, who Bill meets at a party one evening. Roger reveals that he too is separated, his wife having left him for another woman (Bill sniggers up his sleeve at the very thought of a lesbian love affair, another ugly misogynistic trait), and announced her plans to take their son to Australia. Appalled to hear about this, Bill rallies to Roger's side and advises him to sue for custody, paying for his legal fees into the bargain. 



It becomes clear here that Bill is vicariously living his own desires through the easily malleable Roger and his newly galvanized state actually, rather ironically, allows him to experience life once more instead of existing on the fumes of bile and hatred. He starts a relationship with a much younger colleague, played by the go-to '80s siren Joanne Whalley (his boss by the way is played by Stephen Fry in his big screen debut), which helps him begin to see the error of his ways, and when he is confronted by two even bigger misogynistic shits than he is - in the shape of Roger's Thatcherite elitist lawyer played by Simon Callow, and Clifford Rose's reactionary judge who possesses some prehistoric, conservative views on lesbianism - he comes to realise how ridiculous and unfair his prejudiced, hate-filled mindset had been. More, he pieces the jigsaw of that mind together and realises the sobering truth at the root of all his problems: that he was the one to walk out on his marriage because he grew jealous of the love and attention his own child was getting - the very child he now feels it unfair to be kept apart from. 


I'm quite glad the film explored the facets of Bill's character to show that he was responsible for his own anger and that his sense of injustice was ultimately misplaced but, even with that revelation, he is still a long way from redeeming himself as the credits go up - and he, a pointedly solitary figure seated in the back garden of his new bachelor pad, is sure to know that. What would become of Bill? Well, I must admit to thinking he's probably one of those once liberal minded baby boomers who voted for Brexit.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Wanker of the Week: David Walliams

It's been a week of stiff competition really. Phil Neville who - despite having zero managerial experience -  has somehow been given the top job with England Ladies, could easily have walked away with this dubious honour after misogynistic tweets came to light in which he joked about feeling better after he 'battered the wife' and suggested a woman's place was in the home, tidying up. I await results of his coaching with great interest.

But no, the absolute wanker of the week has to be David Walliams. The odious 'comedian' has had quite a week: from the highs of winning an NTA, to the lows of being embroiled in the Presidents Club scandal.



His defence that he was at the event as a host, that he left as soon as his duties were concluded at 11:30pm and that he saw nothing of the allegations that have subsequently broke, is very poor indeed and I for one am not buying it. You were hired to host an evening's entertainment which was men only and whose atmosphere was blatantly misogynistic and unsavoury. You would have to have been blind and deaf not to notice that. Given that Walliams likes to pride himself on having an eye for the ladies, I'm sure that the young girls forced to wear skimpy outfits as they performed their waiting on duties would not have gone unnoticed by him either - especially as they were there long before this 11:30 departure he's at pains to point out. If that was the case and he had eyes in his head, then surely he would see the groping they were subjected to (or did the businessmen and politicians attending the event resist their lascivious urges until this 11:30 cut off point? I doubt it!), and if he head ears too, then surely he would have heard his co-host proclaim how plastic surgery, one of the prizes on offer for the highest bidder, could 'spice up your wife' Walliams would like us to believe that he didn't observe or comprehend any of this, that he was naive to take part. But he's banking on his fans and the general public to be even more naive to accept this bullshit. Just like everyone involved in this scandal, he must pay the price.

The reaction to his involvement is only really starting to take shape. For Walliams himself, he is carrying on as normal after his mealy mouthed public statement on Twitter. However with the news that some bookshops have removed his successful children's titles from their shelves, I hope that his career takes a significant blow which he may not recover from because he no longer has the right to inform the minds of our next generation. As the folk singer Grace Petrie reminded us on Twitter this week, Walliams is not a nice person: "You've got a comedian who has made obscene amounts of money from stereotyping and degrading gay, trans, disabled, working class folk and then you find out - out of the blue - that he's an absolute bellend. Well, knock me down with a feather"

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Bad Day For The Cut (2017)

"How do you know my brother?"

"He tried to kill me"

"What?!"

"It's all sorted now though"


With its winning mix of almost Coen-like thriller tropes, sturdy social realism, and unique Irish flavour, Bad Day For The Cut feels both palpably real and almost poetic. Whilst it is unmistakably a genre piece possessed with an insightful meditation on the corrosive nature of revenge, Baugh walks the tonal tightrope with an ease which belies the fact that this is his sophomore offering.

See my review at The Geek Show

Out On Blue Six: The Fall, RIP MES

As a continuation of yesterday Obit post. I sense I'm going to be playing The Fall even more than I normally do following such sad news...

































End Transmission





Wednesday, 24 January 2018

RIP Mark E Smith


I haven't really got the words other than to say that's another musical hero gone. 

Devastating and quite eerie considering I'm currently reading Brix's autobiography.
RIP

Monday, 22 January 2018

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Funniest Bit of TV of the Week

...well, I should say funniest aside from Derry Girls of course, is this sketch from The Mash Report which sees Rachel Parris of Austentatious fame try and explain sexual harassment to an increasingly bewildered and corpsing Nish Kumar. 



Frustratingly, the BBC have decided to schedule The Mash Report at the same time as Derry Girls goes out (Thursday nights, 10pm) so hooray for catch up!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: East 17

This blast from the past from East 17 could be heard in Thursday night's episode of Derry Girls on Channel 4 and it's been stuck in my head over since.


If you haven't been watching Derry Girls, then stop what you're doing and go and watch it. Seriously, step away from my blog immediately and go and download the three episodes that have so far been broadcast on Channel 4. This Northern Irish, 1990s sitcom is without a doubt the funniest thing the channel has aired since Raised By Wolves, which they stupidly axed after two series. I'm still fuming about that, by the way. In fact Derry Girls has a lot in common with Raised By Wolves, and The Inbetweeners


End Transmission


Friday, 19 January 2018

Wittgenstein (1993)

"So what are you planning to do with the rest of your life?"

"I shall start by committing suicide"



Much more playful than I imagined, Derek Jarman's penultimate film attempts to tell the life of the Viennese-born, Cambridge educated academic Ludwig Wittgenstein, a man believed to be one of the greatest philosophers of all time, yet whose on relationship with philosophy was strained because of his dislike of the subject and his belief that it was simply a by-product of misunderstandings, the root cause of which lies in the faults of our language to effectively communicate what we feel. 


At least I think anyway. What I know about Wittgenstein I could frankly write on the back of a fag packet. What I do know is that Jarman's film is remarkably inventive. Shot in the modern theatrical style (a lack of budget meant black drapes dress the empty sound stage Jarman assembles his cast upon) the film depicts the life of its subject through a series of vignettes, told in the context of Wittgenstein's homosexuality. 


Karl Johnson delivers a career highlight performance in the lead role. Looking remarkably like the man himself, he plays the full gamut of emotions from intuitive thinker to difficult genius - a man whose life is tainted by his privileged upbringing and his academic abilities, when all he seemingly ever wanted was the humble, simple life of a working man. He's well supported by fellow Jarman regulars Michael Gough as Bertrand Russell (perfect casting!) and Tilda Swinton Lady Ottoline Morrell. There's also the peculiar inclusion of a little green martian into Wittgenstein's life story, and this character - arguing the existence of a post box with Wittgenstein's younger self (Clancy Chassay) - is played by Nabil Shaban, effectively recreating his Doctor Who villain Sil, albeit with a better nature and a far less repulsive character. 




Possibly the first Jarman film not to truly wow me (I suspect that I perhaps needed to have a better appreciation of Wittgenstein and his works beforehand) but what did wow me nonetheless was his decision to shoot the film in bold primary colours thanks to Sandy Powell's exceptional costume design. That Jarman was losing his sight to the AIDS virus that ultimately killed him makes his desire to make his film so colourful all the more poignant.


Thursday, 18 January 2018

RIP Peter Wyngarde

Jason King star Peter Wyngarde has died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at the age of 90 following a short illness.


A unique talent, Wyngarde shot to fame in the 1960s with his role as the campy flamboyant author turned sleuth Jason King in the ITC drama Department S. So popular was Wyngarde in the role that, when it came to a second series, ITC decided to relaunch it solely around his character, and Jason King was born, making Wyngarde an international star. Australia was so besotted with the actor and the Jason King character that, following his being voted 'The man most Australian women would like to have an affair with', Wyngarde was mobbed at Syndey airport and was so roughly manhandled by the lust crazed ladies of Oz that he was hospitalised for three days. At the height of his fame, Wyngarde even released an album; When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head is a psychedelic offering that has to be heard to be believed. My favourite track from the album is his version of The Attack's Neville Thumbcatch



Despite his ladies man pin up status, in reality Wyngarde was homosexual and had, for some time during the 60s it is alleged, enjoyed a relationship with fellow actor and flatmate Alan Bates. One of his first major roles was in the controversial 1959 ITV drama South, which saw him cast as a Polish army lieutenant during the American Civil War torn between the love of a plantation owner's niece and a fellow officer. Broadcast live, this groundbreaking drama was said to be the first to tackle homosexuality on British television just two years after the Wolfenden Report. The Daily Sketch critic at the time remarked "I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close up in my living room" Wyngarde's sexuality became public knowledge in 1975 when he was fined £75 and convicted of an act of gross indecency when caught cottaging with a lorry driver. The revelation put an end to his career as a leading man, but he did memorably go on to star as Klytus in Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon five years later. 

Wyngarde was presumed to have been born in France in 1927 (he offered various contrasting accounts of his birth over the years) and grew up in the Far East. During WWII he was interned alongside other European and US citizens (including the young JG Ballard) in Lunghua, Shanghai. Upon ceasefire, Wyngarde came to the UK and initially studied law at Oxford for three months before taking a job in advertising. He made his theatrical debut in 1946 and his first television appearance was in Dick Barton Strikes Back just three years later. In 1961 he starred alongside Deborah Kerr in The Innocents, Jack Clayton's acclaimed adaptation of the Henry James story The Turn of the Screw. Wyngarde went on to guest star in a number of ITC dramas including The Saint and as Number 2 in The Prisoner, as well as starring as John Cleverley Cartney in the infamous A Touch of Brimstone episode of The Avengers. Other roles include that of Timanov in the 1984 Doctor Who serial The Planet of Fire and Langdale Pike in The Three Gables from the 1994 series The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

RIP

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Girls With Guns


Michele Winstanley as Louise, one of the McMahon gang molls in Alex Cox's 1986 fucked up punk Peckinpah pastiche, Straight to Hell - a story of blood, money, guns, coffee and sexual tension! Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it Tarantino! 

Smoking Hot


Lee & Herring

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Fall

A bit safe and predictable I know, but this is my favourite track from The Fall. I remember a long journey on a National Express coach from *shudders* down south; once I'd left Birmingham I ramped this up and finally relaxed.



End Transmission


With or Without You (1999)




As a filmmaker Michael Winterbottom's had a very interesting career. He's still really hard to pin down even now, but to consider he made something as banal and as undemanding as this in the same year he made Wonderland, when he already had Jude, Butterfly Kiss and Welcome to Sarajevo under his belt, and was about to unleash 24 Hour Party People (my favourite) onto the world, is really strange.



With or Without You starts out as the story of a seemingly happily married Northern Irish couple, former RUC officer Vincent (Christopher Eccleston) and Rosie (Dervla Kirwan) who have something missing in their life: a baby. Try as they might they find it hard to conceive and achieve their dreams of being a family. Into this delicate situation comes Rosie's teenage penpal, Frenchman Benoît (Yvan Attal) who arrives in Belfast, homeless, loveless and jobless. Taking pity on him, Rosie invites him to stay and a difficult romantic triangle develops which threatens to become a quadrangle when Vincent's ex, flirty hairdresser Cathy (Julie Graham) starts to show signs of wanting to reignite the spark they once had. 



The best thing about With or Without You is that it is a film made and set in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s that doesn't have all that much to say about the Troubles. Certainly it's touched upon - Eccleston plays a former RUC man and Kirwan's father, played by Alun Armstrong, is a proud protestant in that 'I'm no bigot, but...' kind of tradition familiar to anyone who has a somewhat embarrassing older relative - but Winterbottom and his screenwriter John Forte keep it in the background rather than placing it front and centre. The problem with it is that as a romcom it's not all that funny or indeed that romantic: in fact, despite the best efforts of the cast involved, it's hard to really care about the characters or their relationship problems and I couldn't help but think that the issues surrounding infertility and how it impacts on the male ego in particular are largely ignored in favour of the rather easy love rival storyline. Eccleston is always good value, and his Belfast accent isn't too shabby either, even though he appears to be coasting a little here in a production that is obviously beneath his talent. Kirwan is someone I've never been a huge fan of but, with her late '90s pixie cut, I can certainly see the aesthetic appeal here. Attal is another performer I've never really warmed to, and nothing he contributes here has changed that. 



Winterbottom may indulge in some distinctive visuals (the camera often fades to white rather than black and shows scenes in 'windows' in a rather arty way) but they seem at odds with the otherwise documentarian approach of the film, and there's just no escaping the fact that this is really a rather light TV drama entertainment that has somehow made its way to the big screen. Despite taking its name from the eponymous hit from Irish rockers U2, the film's score is some rather out of place classical music, though old Bonio's classic does eventually rear his head for an in-car sing-a-long, as indeed does Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart - a signpost of what was to come from Winterbottom. Thankfully something significantly better.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Cranberries, RIP Dolores O'Riordan

Absolutely reeling to hear the news that Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan has passed away aged just 46. Apparently she was in London recording when it happened, but there's been no cause of death released as yet. She had been ill last year, cancelling gigs due to a back problem.


It's a real punch to the soul. I loved her voice.




RIP

End Transmission


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: New Order

FAC 321, directed by Jonathan Demme


I always think Gillian looks lovely here



End Transmission


The Man With The Iron Heart (2017)


The story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of The Final Solution, by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two British trained Czech paratroopers in Prague in 1942, is one that is absolutely right for the cinema, as has been proven by some ten films that have been produced since the event (including Anthropoid which, rather damagingly, beat this version to the screen in 2016). 

Laurent Binet's book entitled HHhH recounts these very same events but, it is a novel that is most emphatically not right for the cinema, as this film adaptation from Cédric Jimenez proves.

Having long since been interested in the assassination, I read Binet's book a couple of years ago and was blown away by its refusal to comply to standard literary conventions. HHhH (the title stems from a joke said to have been circulated through Nazi Germany during the war: Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich, or in English "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich") was part historical account, part novel and part journal of an author's experience of researching and writing a story. The book was essentially split into three points of view: the life of Heydrich and his rise to prominence in Hitler's Third Reich, the lives of Gabčík and Kubiš and their accomplices in the Czech resistance movement, and lastly the life of the author himself, Binet. It is, as I have said and as you may imagine, pretty unfilmable, and The Man With The Iron Heart utterly proves that. 



Jimenez realises how unfilmable Binet's POV - the journal of the perils and pitfalls of researching and writing up the events of 1942 - would be and excises it completely, to focus instead firstly on Heydrich and his rise to power, and on Kubiš and Gabčík's mission to assassinate him and, in doing so, he essentially removes the very thing that would make this stand out from all other tellings of the story. The Man With The Iron Heart effectively approaches the history it details in two parts: the first is essentially a biopic of Heydrich as played by Australian actor Jason Clarke, focusing on both his professional and personal life, the latter including his marriage to Lina, played by Rosamund Pike, whilst the latter half is given over to Jack O'Connell and Jack Reynor as Kubiš and Gabčík. 



Unfortunately, neither focus is wholly successful. Heydrich's POV may feel original in terms of previous adaptations of this story, but it stinks of the usual preoccupation that many other films have when focusing on the Nazis, namely the depiction of ruthless violence and tyranny shown immediately alongside scenes of sexual intercourse and titillation. As such, it reminded me of the 2007 film Eichmann which also left an unsavoury taste in the mouth. The subsequent focus on the Czech resistance and the mission itself is less original; essentially a retread of previous adaptations, including Anthropoid and Operation Daybreak (this film borrows the poetic licence of the latter when handling the fates of the courageous assassins), but lacking the depth of character those films enjoyed. 



Indeed, characterisation (or the lack of it) is a frustrating issue in the film overall: it's hard to understand what made Heydrich tick - to be honest there's an argument for whether we really want to see such a monster depicted in human terms anyway, but the way the film basically depicts him as a weird, humourless and lonely man (and borderline sexual deviant: almost the first thing we see of the character is him fucking a girl whilst facing a mirror) who meets Lina, a Nazi party member, who aids his rise to power, is sketchy at best - and Gabčík and Kubiš, along with the former's romance of Anna Novak (played by Mia Wasikowska), is something that leaves us feeling particularly shortchanged too, with no attempt made to convey the devil-may-care attitude these two courageous British-trained, Czech soldiers possessed when knowing full well that what they were undertaking was almost certainly a suicide mission - which was not a complaint that you could level at Binet's book. This flaw is especially galling when you consider the talents of the actors assembled for the film, who are all completely wasted I'm sorry to say. Still, Stephen Graham's depiction of Himmler is up there with Donald Pleasance's chilling recreation for The Eagle Has Landed



Overall, I'm aware that familiarity may well have marred my appreciation of this overall, but I cannot shake the sense that this would be a disappointment even to someone who has no prior knowledge of the events it depicts. I'd recommend you watch Anthropoid instead, and that you read HHhH. Yes, definitely read that I'd say.