Film Reviews - Criminal, Despite The Falling Snow, Eisenstein in Guanajuato

Geoffrey Macnab
Wednesday 13 April 2016 13:53 BST
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Criminal (15), Ariel Vromen, 113 mins, starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones - **

HM Treasury and Chancellor George Osborne must take some of the responsibility for this misfiring and very jarring thriller. The original intention was to make it in an American city but the producers relocated the action to London to take advantage of the generous tax breaks available in the UK. The result is an American movie dressed up in British clothes that simply don’t fit.

At least, Criminal begins brightly enough with a chase sequence in which Ryan Reynolds (seen all too briefly) careers round London, pursued by a Spanish anarchist and his associates.

Costner plays an ageing and thoroughly obnoxious death row convict. Tommy Lee Jones is the Dr Frankenstein-like scientist who tries to implant a CIA agent’s memories into his brain and thereby save the world. Gary Oldman is in Commissioner Gordon mode as a London-based CIA boss. Sadly, this isn’t a patch on director Vromen’s excellent earlier thriller, The Iceman.

Despite The Falling Snow (12A), Shamim Sarif, 91 mins, starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Antje Traue, Charles Dance, Anthony Head, Amy Nuttall- **

Rebecca Ferguson stars as a female spy in the film set in Moscow during the Cold War

Sarif’s very mawkish and novelettish melodrama, based on her own book, stars Rebecca Ferguson in a dual role. She is Katya, a beautiful Russian dissident in late 1950s Moscow who marries young Soviet apparatchik Alexander (Sam Reid) primarily to steal secrets, falls in love with him and then is split apart from him. Meanwhile, in the early 1990s scenes, she is Katja’s niece, a beautiful young American artist who heads to Russia to find what happened to her old aunt. Ferguson (who starred last year in Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation) is given lots of lambent Ingrid Bergman-like close-ups. There is a stirring score from Rachael Portman and it snows quite a lot. For all its invocations of Russian history, this is a glorified telenovela at heart.

Eisenstein In Guanajuato (18). Peter Greenaway, 105 mins, starring: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti, Maya Zapata, José Montini, - ****

Peter Greenaway’s exuberant, highly stylised new feature follows Russian director Sergei Eisenstein on his trip to Mexico in the early 1930s to make Que Viva Mexico. Eisenstein, aged 33, experienced a sexual awakening as he began an affair with his tour guide, Palemo Cañedo (Luis Alberti).

Eisenstein was the master of montage. Greenaway doesn’t try to mimic him but instead throws in some astonishingly elaborate travelling shots, in which there is no cutting at all. As the bushy haired Russian filmmaker, Elmer Bäck looks and behaves like Harpo Marx. It’s an intriguing performance which captures its subject’s humour, prurience and his visionary qualities. What he risks missing, though, is the character’s innocence. The Eisenstein here seems very worldly wise even before he reaches Mexico.

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