Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was a film that became a legend even before its own lifetime, so epic were the obstacles its makers encountered (typhoon, heart-attack and unconscionable delays). By the time it was ready to come out, Coppola was convinced, like nearly everyone else, that the picture would wipe him out; but it didn't. (It was his next film, One From The Heart, that would bankrupt him.) Twenty-two years on, the director and his editor, Walter Murch, have reassembled the film as Apocalypse Now Redux, inserting 49 minutes of previously unseen footage and remastering the sound to lend it an awesome new clarity.
The story remains the same: Captain Willard (Martin Sheen, pictured right) is sent upriver to Cambodia on a hush-hush mission to terminate "with extreme prejudice" the command of Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a decorated war hero who's gone stark raving bonkers. There's still Jim Morrison's ghostly boom through "The End", still those unbeatable cameos from Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, and still the haunting thump of the helicopter gunships swooping over the napalmed forest. As for the new material, I'm not at all sure it enhances the film. There are additional bits and pieces with Willard's crew and the Playmates; a long sequence in a French plantation house where Willard makes out with a young widow (Aurore Clément); and the only glimpse of Brando in daylight, reading out an article from Time magazine. The effect is to slow what was already an unstable and waterlogged vessel. Is it still a masterpiece? Yes, though in that way of certain masterpieces, something of a trial to sit through.
Tony Scott evidently can't get spooks out of his head. Having put Will Smith through the espionage grinder in Enemy of the State, he's at it again with Spy Game, a portrait of friendship set against 20 years of the CIA's carrying on abroad. Robert Redford plays a veteran operative on the brink of retirement from the service when he gets wind of his one-time protégé (Brad Pitt) being arrested in China and sentenced to death. Problem is, the new brooms at the CIA (led by sniffy superior Stephen Dillane) aren't prepared to risk relations in the East and spring Pitt from his prison, so the rescue mission falls to cunning fox Redford. Spy Game turns out not at all bad, partly due to its ambitious flashback structure – Berlin 1975 and Beirut 1985 are its main co-ordinates – and partly due to the sly cat-and-mouse contest that's entrained within CIA HQ between Redford and the dastardly Dillane (shades of Kevin Costner outwitting his fellow spooks in No Way Out). Scott soft-pedals his usual gung-ho approach in favour of a more ruminative, even romantic, mood – Catherine McCormack plays an aid worker who may be jeopardising Pitt's cover – and there's something oddly moving in the sight of wrinkly old Redford passing on the mantle of Top Blond Bombshell to his natural heir.
Rites of passage, this way. Me Without You is an eager little Britflick about two north London girls who make a childhood vow to be friends forever. Anna Friel is wild-child Marina, whose kooky mum (Trudie Styler) and absent father have somehow turned her into the control freak from hell; Michelle Williams is the soulful, strait-laced Holly, always prepared to play second fiddle to her friend until they both fall for the same college lecturer (Kyle MacLachlan), who anyone but a 19-year-old student could tell is a creep. Holly's attraction to Marina's older brother Nat (Oliver Milburn) doesn't help matters. The script, co-written by director Sandra Goldbacher and Laurence Coriat, has energy but little subtlety, lacking a vital sense of detachment from what is clearly a personal story. Williams is sweet as the put-upon Holly, while Friel's neediness and self-pity are almost too convincing for comfort. "Holly's the intellectual of the family." "She's a journalist!" Marina objects. That line made me laugh.
John Singleton's career has never really taken off the way his 1991 debut Boyz N The Hood promised it would – last year he was slumming around a boorishly violent remake of Shaft. His latest, Baby Boy, goes back to examining issues of malehood and responsibility via the story of Jody (Tyrese Gibson), a 20-year-old black American who, despite fathering two children by different mothers, is reluctant to leave the womb-like security of his mother's home. Plus points: a great soul soundtrack and some tip-top acting, particularly from man-mountain Ving Rhames as the reformed con who's moved in with Jody's mother and thus racked up the Oedipal tension by about 200 degrees. Minus point: the circularity of its script, a non-stop cycle of argument, abuse, bust-up and reconciliation which a soap opera would pace over a number of weeks – the couple of hours Singleton packs this into just frazzles the nerves.
The Mariah Carey vehicle Glitter is a bit of a collector's item, inasmuch as it's bereft of any dramatic interest. It purports to follow the rise and rise of a disco diva (Carey, unfortunately) during the 1980s, her career aided and abetted by DJ producer "Dice" (Max Beesley). Yet every time a plot-point looks about to develop, the script simply swerves past it to the next set-up. You'd call this "astonishing" if it weren't for fear of the distributors sneaking the word on to the poster. Kate Lanier's woeful screenplay feebly and belatedly tries to update A Star Is Born, with Carey warbling hysterically at Madison Square Gardens and poor old Beesley still plonking away on a Yamaha up in his loft, by which point the press screening was a mutinous cauldron of guffaws and groans.
Not much response beyond a stunned silence during Eloge de l'Amour, Jean-Luc Godard's latest and reportedly his most accessible in years. It's an enigmatic essay on love and history, and is shot through with the director's trademark pensées, quips and satiric swipes, plus a picture album of Paris filmed in luminously beautiful black and white.Reuse content