Showing posts with label Anthony Hopkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anthony Hopkins. Show all posts

26 February 2019

Fracture

by Paul D. Marks


A while back I did a post here about neo-noir films that I liked. One of them was Fracture, with Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins.


Today I’m going to go into more depth about that film, which also stars David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike and Billy Burke:


No, not that Billie Burke, this Billy Burke:


And, you know I did that just to show pix of both and (hopefully get a laugh)…
Written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers and, and directed by Gregory Hoblit, it’s one of those movies that I find myself watching over and over – I’ve seen it a few times now. And want to watch even more, but talk myself out of doing so so I can see something new or that I haven’t seen in a long time.
The movie’s opening credits roll over a sort of super hi-tech Rube Goldberg contraption which sets the tone for the twists and turns that will be delivered later. And the story revolves around Ted Crawford (Hopkins), a hotshot millionaire aerospace guy, and Willy Beachum (Gosling), a hotshot Deputy District Attorney in L.A., who wants to move into the big bucks world of corporate law. Crawford knows – we’re not sure how but he knows from before the movie starts – that his wife is having an affair with a man, who’s also an LAPD detective. He wants revenge. He wants to get away with it. And he has very ingenious plan to try to do so.


It’s hard to talk about a movie like this and not give away plot twists or spoilers, so I feel like I’m being a little vague. But the movie is a clever cat and mouse game between the very shrewd and brilliant Crawford and the equally good DDA. Two matched equals gunning for each other and isn’t that one of the things we’re told do in writing – the villain and the hero must be equal to each other. And, boy, are these two. It’s like Sleuth or Death Trap on a bigger canvas.
One of the underlying themes (and where I believe the title comes from) is finding the flaws or cracks in a person. Crawford tells Beachum the story of how he grew up working on his grandfather’s farm. His job was to candle eggs – check the eggs and look for hairline fractures and flaws and remove any bad eggs. Well Crawford did the job so well that none of the eggs made the cut. It’s a brilliant piece of writing – a clever way to have the audience see what a sharp and ruthless man Crawford is and how he can’t tolerate weakness in his unfaithful wife or the hapless police department or anywhere else. And how Crawford, like the predator he is, is able to find the flaws in the cops, the system and the DA – to find Beachum’s hairline fracture – and take advantage of his/their weaknesses:

Ted Crawford (Hopkins): You know, my grandfather was an egg farmer.

Willy Beachum (Gosling): This isn't going to be about your, uh, "rough childhood," is it?

Ted Crawford : No, I used to candle eggs at his farm. Do you know what that is? You hold an egg up to the light of a candle and you look for imperfections. The first time I did it he told me to put all the eggs that were cracked or flawed into a bucket for the bakery. And he came back an hour later, and there were 300 eggs in the bakery bucket. He asked me what the hell I was doing. I found a flaw in every single one of them - you know, thin places in the shell; fine, hairline cracks. You look closely enough, you'll find that everything has a weak spot where it can break, sooner or later.

Willy Beachum : You looking for mine?

Ted Crawford : I've already found yours.

Willy Beachum : What is it?

Ted Crawford : You're a winner, Willy.

Willy Beachum : Yeah. I guess the joke's on me then, isn't it?

Ted Crawford : [grinning]  You bet your ass, old sport.


Hopkins is of course magnificent in this role. And Gosling is likeable and earnest and believable. The casting of these two is a great move.
As with all movies, there’re some things in the movie that defy belief. But what movie doesn’t if you really look at it. If I was an attorney I could probably tear apart the courtroom scenes, but again, you have to suspend disbelief and go for the ride. So, as with all movies, you have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. And Fracture, for my money, gives a hell of a fun ride as these two antagonists jockey back and forth with one having the advantage and then the other.
I never get tired of watching them play the game and I always see something new each time I watch it that I didn’t notice before, even though I know the outcome. I rate it five out of five .50 cal BMG rounds straight up.


If you’ve seen the movie, I’d be curious to hear what you think – just don’t give away any spoilers. And if you haven’t and decide to check it out, I hope you’ll enjoy it even half as much as I do.

~.~.~
And now for the usual BSP:

The third story in my Ghosts of Bunker Hill series, Fade Out on Bunker Hill, appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. If you like the movie Sunset Boulevard, I think you'll enjoy this story. In bookstores and on newstands now:



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

28 September 2016

JUGGERNAUT - the Physical Effect

David Edgerley Gates


I think it was the screenwriter William Goldman who said people love seeing how things are done. He meant in particular, how to pull off some dangerous and possibly illegal maneuver. The classic example is RIFIFI, the heist sequence - 30 minutes without dialogue.

JUGGERNAUT is about defusing a set of booby-trapped bombs aboard a cruise ship at sea, and it manages to ratchet the tension up nicely, thank you. Released in 1974, and directed by Richard Lester, the picture headlined Richard Harris and Omar Sharif. It was shot on board an actual ship, in the North Sea, and in bad weather. They used FX for explosions and stuff, but this is before CGI, so the pyrotechnics are happening during the shoot, not after the fact. The first big set piece is the bomb disposal crew, Brit Special Services, parachuting out of an orbiting C-130 Hercules into the open ocean and scrambling up the side of the ship on rope ladders. They lose a guy in the drink. Then our sodden heroes go belowdecks, to try and figure out how not to blow themselves out of the water.

One of the main reasons I like this movie so much is that I tried to do something similar in a story called "Cover of Darkness," which was likewise about saddling up for a dangerous job, but more to the point, the story was about the nuts and bolts. It was carried by physical action, not dialogue, and it was very hard to pull off. A lot of it took place underwater, in scuba gear, so there wasn't any talking. This is the kind of thing movies can do really well, but it's nowhere near as easy to do in narrative prose. You're using the equivalent of movie vocabulary, without anything to break up those long descriptive paragraphs. Somebody hits their thumb with a hammer, you don't even get to hear them curse about it. Trust me, this is work. Rolling the stone away from the door.



Those physical details in JUGGERNAUT, though, are seamless. Close watertight doors. Check. The gears engage, the tumblers lock. Go to infrared. Check. The visible light spectrum shuts down. Isolate the power source. Check. Richard Harris threads an alligator clip carefully past a trembling switch and shorts out the electrical contacts. His team listens in on headsets, and follows the route he maps out, step by step. There are half a dozen devices to disarm, and Harris is breaking trail for the others. If he puts a foot wrong, it's his last mistake.

Now, you had me at cut the red wire. I'm a sucker for all the generic tropes of demolition stories, going back to THE WAGES OF FEAR. But for reasons I don't understand, this picture was a dud at the box office. Maybe it was too cerebral, the suspense generated by things not going off, when any minute they could. And it seems so economical, no wasted motion, no down time, all meat and potatoes.

Then, besides, Richard Harris and Omar Sharif, you've got Anthony Hopkins and David Hemmings, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, cameos by Freddie Jones and Roshan Seth and Jack Watson, Cyril Cusack and Michael Hordern. And to top it off, two enormously affecting performances by Roy Kinnear and Clifton James, who all too often play caricature. It baffles me, I kid you not. Richard Lester didn't always bring home the bacon, though. HARD DAY'S NIGHT, and HELP, A FUNNY THING and THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and then a truly astonishing, transcendent picture like ROBIN AND MARIAN goes straight in the toilet. You can't account for it, the intangibles.

Dick Lester shooting JUGGERNAUT

This doesn't change the essential thing, which was my starting point. JUGGERNAUT is about the accumulation of small incident, the trembling switch, the red wire, the single detail. Skip one little piece of the puzzle, and you're a smear of atomized remains on the bulkhead. That's existential, all right. No room for conversation.

I admire how coherent JUGGERNAUT is. It takes a technical problem, and lays out its component parts. Whether it's in fact
Clifton James
presenting an accurate picture is beside the point. You buy into it completely, at least for the duration. I understand that there are always going to be hardware guys, like me, who look for solution to target. And then there are people who look through or beyond the schematic, to the emotional context. As it happens, I think JUGGERNAUT has that, too. Clifton James, confessing his infidelity to his wife. Shirley Knight, after Omar Sharif throws her under the bus. And again, Roy Kinnear, who shows such grace, and a touching largeness of heart.


But let's be honest. Even though the characters are terrific, the picture isn't character-driven. It's compelling because it takes you through a process, and it's all of a piece. The clock just keeps ticking.