Matthew McConnaughey

Gold

04/02/17

We’re getting used to those Matthew McConaughey mega-performances. In Gold, he goes full Jake La Motta, transforming himself into an overweight, balding, snaggletoothed chain-smoking alcoholic and yes, it’s the kind of impressive tour de force we’ve come to expect from the man, who used to make a living taking his shirt off in Jennifer Aniston comedies; but you can’t help wondering why he’s gone to such extreme lengths when the character he plays is semi-fictional anyway.

In Gold, he plays Kenny Wells, a down-on-his-luck prospector who gambles everything on one last-ditch expedition after having a dream about striking gold in Indonesia. (Let’s face it, we’ve all had that dream!) He hooks up with geologist, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a man who talks a good game and Wells raises the money to finance a trip to the Indonesian rain forest. Once there they pitch their tents and settle down to the wearisome task of drilling soil samples and having them assayed. For a long, long time, nothing happens, (unless you count Wells’ debilitating bout of malaria) but then they do find gold and almost before you can say ‘yippee’ the entire might of Wall Street is rushing in to get their hands on a piece of the action…

We’ve all seem films that are ‘based on a true story.’ This one is ‘inspired by real events’ and sure enough, a little searching on the internet pulls up the story of a man called David Walsh, who founded a tiny mining company called Bre-X in 1989. In the early 90’s he and one Michael Guzman discovered gold in Indonesia and generated billions of dollars off the back of it, before it was discovered that the whole thing was built on a lie. Gold alters some of the facts and shifts the events firmly into the 1980s (which if nothing else, does give the excuse for a cracking soundtrack) but the film is rather dominated by McConaughey, relegating most of his fellow-actors to the sidelines (including Bryce Dallas Howard as his long-suffering wife, Kay) and, rather like the star’s waistline, the film does get a bit lumpy towards the middle section.

A firmer hand in the editing suite would have helped to streamline proceedings, but this is nothing like as bad as some critics have suggested and here and there, the film does manage to fizz into life. Mind you, if you were looking for something to improve your opinion of the American financial system, this one isn’t for you. You’ll leave the cinema with the impression that every last person in the industry is a venal, money-grubbing back-stabbing piece of excrement.

Just sayin’.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney

Advertisements

Interstellar

MV5BMjIxNTU4MzY4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4ODI3MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_

9/11/14

Some films arrive in the cinema burdened by the weight of unreasonable expectation and Interstellar is one such film. Probably the most anticipated release since Prometheus (and look what happened with that!), if we are to believe what we’re told, this film is destined to save the film industry itself because what the world needs now is a major blockbuster and this just might be it. The film takes on weighty themes like the demise of mankind, the exploration of space and some fairly ‘out there’ theories about black holes and the fifth dimension. If much of it feels like a homage to Kubrick’s 2001, that’s no bad thing. The good news is, that though not perfect, Christopher Nolan’s three hour epic manages to hold a viewer’s attention throughout and in two key set pieces racks up levels of almost unbearable suspense.

The world is going to hell in a handcart, mostly because it’s turning into one great big dustbowl. Crops are dying out and ex space explorer Cooper, (Matthew McConaughey) now a corn farmer, sees his livelihood slipping away. When his young daughter Murphy tells him that the bookcase in her bedroom is trying to communicate with her (stay with me) Cooper identifies an anomaly, one that leads him to a remote location, where NASA scientist, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) is preparing a secret space mission, which he hopes will find a way to save the world. He’s prepared to send his own daughter, (Anne Hathaway) as a member of the team and he wants Cooper to pilot the spaceship. But it will mean being parted from his children for many years, with no guarantee of survival…

It’s to the film’s credit, that it makes some fairly unlikely events seem believable, but much of the ‘science’ here is so mind-blowingly complicated, that characters often have to resort to sketching diagrams to ensure that the audience understands it better – and there’s a final M. Night Shymalan-style twist that will either have you starry-eyed with wonder or shouting ‘no way!’ at the screen. Whether Interstellar can save the film industry is debatable. What is for sure is that Nolan hasn’t lost his Midas touch when it comes to creating awe-inspiring cinema. The father-daughter relationship at the heart of this tale is a powerful hook and the cinematography and special effects sequences are often breath-taking. A palpable hit, methinks.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney