A little shaken, but not stirred


Imagine that in the mid-Sixties, roughly between Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, James Bond was sent on a mission to the States, to lift some microfilm from the FBI. Imagine that he fouled up, was disowned by M and Q and all his other Nato chums and was put in jail for the rest of his life. Imagine that, apart from the odd briefly successful escape, the incarcerated Bond had spent the past 30 years developing an unpredictable fondness for the music of Led Zeppelin and growing his hair to Robert Plant proportions. Finally, imagine the blistering, shaken-not-stirred wisecrack that he rasps out when the Feds pull him from his lightless cell to offer him freedom in return for his help with a spot of bother. Yes, you have it: "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

Such, or something very like them, are among the more amusing premises for The Rock (15), directed by Michael Bay, this week's contribution to that thriving sub-genre of action-thriller devoted to headcases who steal an ultimate weapon and aim it against the Land of the Free. True, the name of Sean Connery's character is Patrick Mason rather than James Bond, and his provenance is supposed to be SAS rather than OHMSS, but these are technicalities. The film's most incredible detail, and least laboured joke, is that no one stops to remark on the similarities between Mason's CV and agent 007's, or on the curious mutations three decades in the slammer have wrought on a Bondian persona: Virgil, just maybe, but would the old, red-corpuscled Bond so much as dream of letting a Spectre agent catch him quoting Oscar Wilde?

The Rock's second-best joke is to set Connery's bristly roguishness off against Nicolas Cage at his most hang-dog and goofy. Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed, an unemployed chemistry buff and Beatles fan, who is suddenly called in for active service when a gonzo marine general (Ed Harris) steals an ultimate weapon (missiles armed with a nerve gas that makes flesh bubble like hot mozzarella), occupies Alcatraz, takes civilian hostages, and aims it against the Land of the Free, or, in this case, San Francisco. No conventional hero, Goodspeed pukes at the prospect. But since his pregnant girlfriend is among the targets, he agrees to sneak his way into the disused prison in the company of some Navy Seals and the one man ever to escape it: Mason. Gunfire follows.

Cage and Connery make a sparky buddy-act, and while the role of Mason could not be said to stretch Connery's abilities to snapping point, he's gloriously watchable; without him, it would be wearisome to plod through all the movie's contrivances and liftings - the scene in which the strike force first enters Alcatraz's labyrinthine tunnels is straight out of Aliens, and there's a grisly gimmick about an emergency injection of atropine directly to the heart - what can have inspired that idea? Connery even gets away with barking a line that sounds less like the fruit of 30 years' silent contemplation than the ventriloquised credo of The Rock's co-producer, the late Don Simpson, to whom the film is dedicated: "Losers whine about doing their best; winners go home and make love to the prom queen!" ("Make love" is a polite paraphrase.)

Winner or loser, Simpson could have left a worse tombstone than The Rock. For all its half-hearted prettified jingoism, it's a lot brighter and better than most Simpson/Bruckheimer productions, wearing its absurdities lightly and in a less faceless style - Michael Bay has contrived a car chase through San Francisco so dizzyingly cut that the thing seems as fresh as it might do if, like Mason, you hadn't seen it done dozens of times on screen over the last 30 years. From time to time, The Rock also displays enough cod-erudition to suggest its screenwriters might have opened a book or two in college. With Smoke, it is, astonishingly, the second film now on general release to contain an allusion to Sir Walter Raleigh.

To be sure, college education can be a mixed blessing, since it is in Freshman English that you learn all about Symbolism. John Schlesinger's An Eye for an Eye (18) begins with a little girl frightened by a moth, screaming, "Kill it, Mommy, please kill it!" A trifle laboured, you might think, for a film about a nice housewife (Sally Field) who turns Travis Bickle after her older daughter is raped and murdered by a creep who is then set free by those goddam pinkoes in the legal system. You would be right to think so, but in the context of the film as a whole the moth trick is Flaubertian in its understatement.

Essentially a genteel reprise of the Death Wish movies about violent reprisals, An Eye for an Eye sports the air of asking hard ethical questions, but loads the arguments so ham-fistedly that it seems like the long prelude to a dialectical twist that never arrives. The victims are sweeties, the killer (Keifer Sutherland) an unmitigated bounder: not content with rape, murder and public urination, he actually teases dogs. Never mind Sally Field, Mahatma Gandhi would have wanted to off this scumbag. Then, just in case anyone is still alert enough to try a spot of thinking about implication, the film shifts into idiot-thriller gear for the last half hour. A great film might be made in favour of the lex talionis, but Schlesinger's effort leaves you wondering less about just vengeance than his willingness to take on such sorry stuff.

Adapted from a story by HE Bates, John Irvin's A Month by the Lake (PG) seems squarely in the over-familiar Enchanted April mode, but slowly yields up something a shade stranger. The tone is sufficiently deadpan that it takes a while to realise that the occasional ludicrous notes are calculated: it's all quietly but firmly comic. The year is 1937, the Fascists are on the march, and Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave), a spirited spinster on her annual holiday by Lake Como, falls for the expressive ears of the bufferish Major Wilshaw (Edward Fox), himself plainly on vacation from the pages of a PG Wodehouse novel. Their summer of mature passion is at once thwarted and catalysed by the arrival of a young American flibbertigibbet (Uma Thurman), who soon turns the Major's head (and ears). Vanessa Redgrave, in terrific shape, is the film's trump card: as a woman both young enough to suffer belated calf-love and old enough to regard her own weaknesses with sceptical amusement, she makes Miss Bentley a blend of gawkiness and grace, not to mention deep sexiness.

For the rest: Man of the Year (15) is a faked-up documentary about a real-life episode in the life of its director, Dirk Shafer, who was voted Centrefold of 1992 by the readers of Playgirl magazine, and was thus obliged to conceal the fact that he is homosexual. Though the artifice is no more believable than This is Spinal Tap, and not as funny, it's good-natured and entertaining enough. Contrariwise, Glastonbury: The Movie (15) is a real documentary with faked-up elements, pieced together from several different festivals, and concentrating more on the herbivores in the crowd than the acts on stage. A cocktail of the appropriate dangerous drugs might make it seem vaguely interesting.

The title of Maborosi (no cert), a first feature from the Japanese documentarist Hirokazu Kore-eda, means something like "apparition" or "Will-o'-the- wisp", and its most obvious point of reference within the film is the guilt which nags its young heroine Yumiko (one of Japan's most successful models, Makiko Esumi): was she in some way responsible for the suicide of her first husband and, in childhood, the death of her grandmother? Filmed mostly in static long and medium shots, often from behind, Maborosi is a melancholic mood piece which requires patience, and largely rewards it. Much, in fact, like the later films of Robert Bresson, whose second feature, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (PG), not often shown even by the rep cinemas, is having a welcome re-release. If you have found Bresson's work too inhospitable so far, this tale of exquisite amorous cruelties might change your mind; and if you really want to brood on vengeance and redemption, Les Dames is - or should that be are? - far more provocative company than Ms Field and her loaded .38.

Cinema details: Going Out, page 10.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower