Showing posts with label Adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adventure. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is an average Joe New Yorker, working for Time Magazine. His life is dull, bland and listless. He lacks the adventure and excitement that he secretly craves and frequently day dreams, putting himself in exhilarating and romantically fulfilling positions. As news is announced that Time Magazine is to close, Walter is sent a roll of film from hunky adventure photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) who asks Walter to make sure that a particular photograph of his is considered for the final cover. The problem is that Sean’s photo never arrived and inspired by a secret love for a new co-worker, Walter breaks free of the shackles of everyday tedium and sets out to track down the illusive photographer not letting oceans, mountains or implausibility stop him.

It’s no coincidence that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was released here in the UK on Boxing Day, being as it is the perfect film to uplift its target audience from their overly full, post Christmas slump. Like a bland Christmas turkey, it’s the sort of film that comes around once a year at the festive period and even though it isn’t as exciting as venison or lobster, you eat it because it’s the time of year that you’re meant to. There isn’t lots of nourishment and if you’re honest, it’s quite dry but you let it slide because there’s also cranberry sauce on your plate. But wait a minute, there is no cranberry sauce, there’s Ben Stiller and he’s shoving another fork full of turkey down your throat. Eat the turkey. Eat it.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Jurassic Park

The fact that Jurassic Park is twenty years old makes me feel older than I’d like to think I am. It’s hard to believe that it was two decades ago that a wide eyed seven year old me took a trip to the local cinema for what was only my second cinematic experience at the time. The film was a sensation with children, adults and critics and became the highest grossing movie of all time. Although I loved the film, there was a part of me who secretly hated it as it opened children’s eyes to the dinosaur world, something which I naively thought only I liked. Suddenly all my friends had dinosaur toys too and it annoyed me that they’d stolen my thing. It was the equivalent of that cool, underground band you like appearing on TV and going mainstream. Despite my anger over the film taking dinosaurs mainstream, it was pretty much the best thing my seven year old eyes had ever seen.

Twenty years, two sequels and about a dozen viewings later I heard that Universal were bringing Jurassic Park back to the big screen in 3D. Part of that sentence made me very happy but I was rather sceptical about the ‘3D’ element. I was even offered the chance to join a critics screening in New York City of all places, six months ago while on holiday there. I was unfortunately unable to make it though as I’d left my girlfriend shopping somewhere and knowing that she never notices her phone ringing and wouldn’t be able to make it to the theatre in time anyway, I had to decline, something which was deeply disappointing. All was not lost though as although I had to wait nearly half a year, I was eventually able to see the film on one of the largest screens in the country, the IMAX screen in Manchester.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful is a film which feels like it’s snuck up on me. I was aware of its development and saw a billboard the other day but other than that it has had very little promotion for a $200 million movie. Still, while looking for something to watch at the cinema on a Friday night we found the movie was opening and risked a busy Friday screening to see the film blind. By blind, I mean without trailers and reviews etc. Not actually blind. That’s best saved for the Twilight movies.

Oz is based on the novels of L. Frank Baum and is a sequel of sorts to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. The film is set in the same world and features many of the characters found in the MGM classic but is updated in tone and effects and focuses on the story of the Wizard of Oz – how he came to Oz and how he became who he was when Dorothy dropped in years later. The movie begins in beautiful monochrome black and white and 4:3 aspect ratio as we find ourselves in Kansas in 1905. The arrogant but charming circus magician Oz (James Franco) is having yet another disastrous appearance on stage and is booed off. Back in his caravan he spies a weightlifter coming for him after Oz interfered with his woman. Oz escapes aboard a hot air balloon and ends up in the eye of a tornado which transports him to the brightly coloured (and widescreen) Land of Oz. In Oz he meets the Witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) who asks for help in defeating the wicked Witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) in exchange for a place on the throne as King of Oz.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

A lonely but imaginative boy is fed up with being ignored at home and after an argument with his mother, runs away. He reaches a pond and gets into a small sailing boat. The pond soon becomes a sea and after days afloat he finds himself on an island inhabited with seven giant creatures. Spotting a similarity between himself and the destructive Carol (James Gandolfini) the boy Max (Max Records) soon finds himself in the middle of the group and convinces them he is a King in order to stop them eating him. Each monster is like a version of Max and themes of jealousy, fear, boredom and frustration are the same which trouble pre teen children as they grow up.

I never saw the film on its initial release back in 2009 but had heard some good things about it. A quick search confirms that it appeared on numerous Top 10 lists but for me it isn’t quite that good. I thought the effects and cinematography were excellent and the story had its moments but it was also a little dull in places and the sort of film which I’d rather have watched in my early teens.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Trip to the Moon

You may notice the tag line at the top of this page reads ‘Reviewing 100 Years of Film’; well I’m going back even further here with Georges Melies fantastic Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). The most famous of Melies many hundreds of short films, A Trip to the Moon is loosely based on two popular turn of the century novels, From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. At a meeting of astronomers, one man proposes a trip to the Moon. Despite some discord among the members, five people agree to travel with the man and launch from a giant gun inside a bullet shaped rocket. When they get to the Moon they witness incredible celestial sights from its surface before encountering aliens who ‘take them to their leader’.

Despite looking fairly primitive now one hundred and ten years after its release, A Trip to the Moon was, for its time, incredibly advanced both in story and execution and is considered as the first Science Fiction film ever to be produced. The film features some incredible animation which is mixed with physical props, effects and editing to create a surreal vision of the Moon over sixty-five years before man ever set foot upon its surface.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Spirited Away

Often regarded as one of the greatest animated films of all time and Japan’s highest grossing film in history at the time of its release, Spirited Away is an animated adventure, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Ten year old Chihiro is travelling with her parents to their new house when her father takes a wrong turn that leads to what looks like an abandoned Amusement Park. Though scared, Chihiro follows her parents who find the Park deserted but discover food has been left out. As the parents begin to tuck in Chihiro looks around and discovers a Bath House where she meets Haku, a boy who tells her to get back across the river before sunset. As she returns to her parents she discovers they have been turned into pigs and she is stuck in a strange world of spirits where her kind is not welcome.

Spirited Away reminded me of some of the great children’s adventures such as The Goonies or Labyrinth but also features the kind of animation that reminded me of my childhood. The hand drawn style is reminiscent of classic Disney but also of the cartoons that I was bought up on in the late 80s and early 90s. It doesn’t appear to be pushing any boundaries but is deceptively deep and beautiful.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Known in the UK as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, this film charts a particular adventure of Hergé’s famous comic book creation Tintin. Young Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys an old model ship at a market. Straight away he is approached by two men who offer to buy the ship from him for any price. After he declines Tintin’s ship is stolen and while tracking it down he uncovers a mystery involving lost treasure. With the help of his intrepid dog Snowy and a drunken Sea Captain called Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin sets out to find the hidden loot and uncover the secret of the Unicorn. 

I used to watch Tintin cartoons when I was very young and though can’t remember much about them now, I do remember enjoying them. I wish I could say the same for this film. I’d read that the film was an adventure in the mould of Indiana Jones but I found the plot incredibly dull and predictable. The film was saved only by some first rate animation and a typically impressive John Williams score.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Quantum of Solace

"This is about trust. You said you weren't motivated by revenge"

A direct sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace stars Daniel Craig as British Secret Agent James ‘007’ Bond. Following the death of someone close to him Bond sets out to enact revenge while also uncovering a Coup d’état in Bolivia. Enlisting the help of Bolivian Agent Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Bond travels the globe tracking the environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is in fact a member of the secret organisation Quantum, about which little is known. Despite frequent calls for restraint from his boss M (Judi Dench), Bond is unable to control his urge for revenge and ends up with both MI5 and the CIA hot on his tail.

The fact that it’s taken me four years to watch this film may give you some indication as to my indifference when it comes to 007. I used to like watching the Sean Connery and Roger Moore film’s as a child and remember enjoying the Pierce Brosnan Bond when I was growing up but there is something about ‘modern Bond’ which I just don’t get. Nevertheless I gave this a go and here’s what I thought…

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The General

If you ask anyone who has heard of Buster Keaton to name one of his films then chances are they’ll say The General. By far his most famous film, Keaton stars as railroad engineer Johnnie Gray on the eve of the American Civil War. Johnnie has two loves in his life; his girl Annabelle (Marion Mack) and his engine, The General. When war is declared Johnnie rushes off to enlist in the Confederate Army only to be turned away as he is too important on the railroad. Annabelle doesn’t believe him though and says she doesn’t want to see him until he’s in uniform. Meanwhile a Northern spy plots to steal a Southern train in order to cut communications before a big offensive. With Annabelle onboard, Johnnie has to save his two loves at once.

It is true that The General is Keaton’s most famous work and is generally considered to be his best. For me though this is not the case. While I admire much of it and enjoyed it, the film is more of a drama-comedy than his earlier comedy-dramas and it is these that I prefer.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

"Do you have any idea what you really are?"

Just ten years after the first of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy the series is rebooted with English actor Andrew Garfield actor taking over from Tobey Maguire as the masked vigilante Spider-Man/school kid Peter Parker. Parker is a normal teenager living in New York. He lives with his aunt and uncle (Sally Field and Martin Sheen) due to his parents unexplained late night desertion of their son when he was a child. Peter is in love with fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and shunned by most of his class. After discovering his father worked with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), Peter helps the scientist with a regenerative formula which could help Connors to re-grow a lost limb. While at Connor’s offices, Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered spider and gains new strength and skills. Following a harrowing personal loss, Peter uses these skills to track down a criminal before turning his attention to a new threat – The Lizard.

Before watching Raimi’s trilogy again recently I thought that it was far too soon for a Spider-Man reboot but after watching and reviewing them for GB Posters I came to the conclusion that I was ready for a fresh look at the series; a more grown up and modern look. The Amazing Spider-Man definitely feels more grown up than Raimi’s trilogy and it has overcome many of the problems that those films had. That being said, it is far from perfect.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Seven Samurai

"I've got nothing out of fighting; I'm alone in the world"

During the late sixteenth century a poor farming village hires seven masterless Samurai to help to combat a group of forty bandits who return each year after harvest to steal their crop. After much searching the farmers eventually discover a wise and experienced Samurai called Kambei (Takashi Shimura) who agrees to not only help them but also find six more Samurai to protect the village.

Along with Kambei the villagers recruit a band of warriors which includes the young and untested Katsushiro (Iaso Kimura), a skilled archer called Gorobei (Yoshio Inaba), Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi) – a solemn and stone faced master swordsman and my favourite, the drunk and unpredictable Kikuchiyo (Toshirō Mifune). Along with Heihachi and Shichirōji they become the Seven Samurai. I hadn’t seen this film before now but had always been aware that it was considered one of the best films of all time. While I’ve definitely seen a lot of films that I prefer, I can understand why it is held in such high regard.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is the daughter of King Magnus (Noah Huntley) and is known as a great beauty. Her mother, the Queen dies when she is young and her father remarries a freed prisoner called Ravenna (Charlize Theron). On their wedding night Ravenna kills the King and takes the Kingdom for herself. Snow White is locked up in an isolated tower for several years as the Kingdom is left to rot under Ravenna’s cruel rule. When she comes of age it is revealed to Ravenna that she is no longer the fairest of them all and that Snow White’s beauty has usurped hers. Ravenna tries to eat Snow White’s heart in order to stay forever young but Snow White escapes. Ravenna sends a drunken widower Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to bring Snow White back but things don’t pan out the way Ravenna hopes.

The film appears to be influenced by many different stories and ideas with the most notable being Snow White (obviously), but there is also a lot of Joan of Ark in there as well as a little Twilight, Game of Thrones, Royal Wedding and the visual styling of an acid trip. The castle appears to be modelled on Mont St.Michael in Normandy. The film’s design and effects are amongst its most successful features. Debut director Rupert Sanders has created a sumptuous world of dark forests, great castles, dancing fairies, giant trolls and medieval towns. The film looks stunning.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

"I am the great traitor. There must be no other"

Werner Herzog’s 1972 Adventure-Drama stars his regular collaborator, Klaus Kinski in the role of Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre who in 1561 while on an expedition in search of the mythical El Dorado, mutinied and took control of the expedition after which time all involved lost their lives, either at the hands of natives or of starvation. Though based on fact and on the life of a real man, much of the story is a fabrication and is only loosely based on real events.

The film’s central themes of lust for power and riches as well as madness and delusion are fully explored in this sparse and bleak film. Kinski can be seen delving deeper and deeper into a frenetic, maddened state as his followers become more disillusioned and his situation becomes more desperate. It is shot in such a way that it often feels like a documentary. There is very little dialogue, plenty of beautiful shots of the Amazon and its surrounding jungle and many of the characters look directly down the camera lens as though they are talking directly to the audience. 

Klaus Kinski in the central role is superbly menacing but understated. In fact the entire film is understated and eerily calm. No fuss is made about a death or even an explosion. It is as if the cast treated these incidents as though they were happening to someone else. Everything feels distant.

While I enjoyed the film, it is not something I would recommend to most people. It is extremely slow and will not be to most people’s tastes. It also suffers from an unfortunate dubbing problem. It was filmed in English as that was the only common language of the cast, but then dubbed into German. As a result, the dialogue never matches up to the audio.

Unfortunately for the film as with so many of Herzog’s Feature Films, the story behind the making of the film is more interesting than the actual film. You can really see the effort that went into making it. Every inch of inhospitable jungle that the cast and crew trekked was real and there are stories of Herzog directing Kinski with a gun to his head and of Kinski, in a rage, shooting off the finger of an extra. Many of the problems that the production faced were actually incorporated into the film!
Herzog’s ability to capture a madman on the precipice is unmatched and he has done it time and time again. This is one of his best examples of that. Aguirre has been placed on many ‘Top Film’ lists and while I didn’t like it enough for that it will be a treat for any Herzog fan and the sort of film that people should try if they are feeling on the adventurous side.   


Click for reviews of the great Herzog documentaries; Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Into the Abyss.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Time Bandits

Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy film Time Bandits is about a young boy called Kevin (Craig Warnock) who is one night awakened by a gang of time travelling dwarfs who have stolen a map from ‘the Creator’ which they are using to steal treasure. Kevin joins the gang and travels to the middle ages and ancient Greece amongst other times and places and eventually ends up facing off against Evil (David Warner) in a battle of quite literally good vs. evil.

From what I’d read of the plot beforehand I was hoping for a kind of Goonies crossed with Brazil but what I got didn’t live up to either of those films. While Terry Gilliam’s directorial style is all over the film with lavish and unusual sets and costumes and his distinct animation, it lacked the humour of the Python films and the drama and intrigue of the likes of Brazil or 12 Monkeys. The film is obviously aimed at a younger audience than those films and perhaps a younger audience would have enjoyed it more than me.

Craig Warnock, playing the central character of Kevin was really annoying but I liked the gang of dwarfs. They each had their own little eccentricities and quirks and were sometimes amusing. John Cleese has an excellent cameo as Robin Hood in which he channels Prince Philip. His few minutes on screen were very funny. Sean Connery is another with a small cameo, playing King Agamemnon but a version of the King who has a passion for magic. He is fine, but like Cleese is under used. Co-writer Michael Palin has a couple of cameos and his small roles are the funniest of the film.

One of my main problems with the film is that it lacked the laughs you’d expect from a Palin-Gilliam co written piece. There is the odd subtle bit of humour laced here and there but they are few and far between. The film focuses too heavily on the adventure which isn’t actually that interesting. Maybe it isn’t meant to be that funny but I think the film would have been greatly improved had it been so.

There was one moment towards the end which I liked and thought was bold. This came when Kevin asks ‘the Creator’ why so many people had to die in order for him to carry out a little experiment. As an atheist, I liked this little question as it is something I personally would love to ask ‘the Creator’ did it exist. Why cause so much suffering when you don’t need to and can stop it? It’s a nice sly question which might have children watching asking their parents and priests the same thing.  

On the whole the film is fine but lacks excitement and humour. The sets and effects are superb and the cameos good. I just expected a lot more from Gilliam, who is a fantastic film maker.  


Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Tommy Lee Jones’ Directorial debut is a modern day Western set in Texas and Northern Mexico and is about the death of Mexican cowboy Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cedillo). Before his death he made his friend Pete (Tommy Lee Jones) promise to bury him in his small town of birth, Jimenez, across the border in Mexico. Pete kidnaps the boarder patrolman Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) who shot Estrada and the two of them set out in search of Jimenez.  

One of the films strengths is that it sometimes shows the same incident from two different character’s perspectives which help the audience to decide who they believe is in the right or wrong or build up a better understanding of proceedings. This however helps to add to one of the films downfalls which is the non-linear way the plot unfolds in the first act. I found myself confused for the first half an hour or so until I worked out who everyone was and what their place in the movie was. Once I’d figured out who everyone was, I then had trouble understanding what anyone was saying. The Spanish dialogue is subtitled but I could have done with subtitles for the mumbled Texan accents that were prevalent. At times I honestly had no idea what was being said.

The story is kind of interesting but I didn’t have enough love for Tommy Lee Jones or Julio Cedillo’s characters to really care either way and Barry Pepper’s Mike Norton is made out to be quite a nasty character so I certainly didn’t care what happened to him. His partial redemption towards the end wasn’t enough for me. I think that there was another film in there, based on the relationship between Barry Pepper and his wife January Jones. The acting on the whole was very good. Tommy Lee Jones as usual was great and Barry Pepper showed greater range than I’d witnessed from him before. Even January Jones was acceptable, the best I’ve seen from her too. Melissa Leo stood out but her role was very small.

Tommy Lee Jones gave me no reason to think that he couldn’t or shouldn’t direct again but there was no wow factor. He manages to get good performances however and the locations are pretty. The film in general is fine but I wasn’t very interested in the plot.  


The Goonies

The Goonies is a reminder of a time when little boys didn’t sit around at home playing video games or trying to spot Beyonce’s nipples on MTV but went out into the world and had adventures. This is one of the last of those adventures.

A group of friends who call themselves The Goonies are threatened by the expansion of a Country Club. The club are threatening to tear down their houses meaning the friends will all have to move away. One of the boys, Mikey (Sean Austin) finds a map in amongst his father’s antiques which he believes leads to hidden pirate treasure. Along with his older brother (Josh Brolin) and friends (Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan and Jeff Cohen) Mikey sets out on an adventure to find the hidden gold.

This is exactly the kind of fun 80s movie that Super 8 was trying to replicate and having now seen The Goonies I realise how successful that film was at taking the best of the genre and mixing it with something more modern. The Goonies is full of great adventure and made me wish I was one of them, in a tunnel under the town trying to outwit baddies. It made me feel young again. The film felt more adventurous and fun that the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean and cost a fraction to produce. It is really good fun and features some very funny characters speaking very funny lines. The main characters are stereotypical 80s kids but the film gets away with feeling caricatured. It is maybe that they seem stereotypical to me watching in 2012 but that they are actually the characters upon witch my stereotypes were based.

The chase and constant attempts to outwit the bad guys was reminiscent of another great family action adventure of the time, Home Alone which was directed by The Goonies writer, Chris Columbus. As with Home Alone I felt young while watching and as much a part of the action as I do with any 3D film. And like any good family film, it isn’t afraid to scare the younger viewers slightly.

The film is not without faults. The dialogue feels quite cheesy and at times it did get a bit boring but to be fair, I am not a child or teenager. The acting was also a bit mixed. John Brolin was fine, as were the bad guys Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano and Robert Davi. I thought that Goonies Sean Austin and Jeff Cohen were also good but the rest weren’t. For me, this film had plenty of nostalgia and made me think back to watching the likes of E.T and Indiana Jones with my family as a child. The clothes, bikes and dialogue also reminded me of being a young child (the film is one year older than I am). Overall, I really enjoyed the film and it is that rare film that the whole family can watch and enjoy.   


Thursday, 15 March 2012


Disney’s 50th feature length animation, Tangled is loosely based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Rapunzel, though obviously without the pregnancy and blindness of the original. In this version the Queen is gravely ill when giving birth to her baby girl and drinks a potion made from a flower grown from a drop of sunlight. The baby is born and her hair contains magical rejuvenate properties. She is snatched from the castle by an evil old woman and kept in a tower where said woman can use her hair to keep herself young… It is eighteen years later and a thief has stolen a crown and whilst running from the King’s Guards stumbles upon Rapunzel’s tower. She forces him to help her find the source of magical floating lights which she sees on the horizon on each of her birthdays and an adventure with romance ensues.  

I am probably about twenty years older than the target audience and with one extra appendage but I can see why young girls would be charmed by the film. There is a cute chameleon, a beautiful princess, a handsome hero and plenty of jokes and sight gags to keep a young child entertained. From my perspective it had some of the magic of an earlier hand drawn Disney animation but has been updated in order to appeal to 21st Century children. No longer is the hero a valiant Prince but a thief and it is the female character who often saves the day. The genre has been subverted and it seems that it is no longer acceptable for the heroin to simply wait for the hero to rescue her but must show that ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’.

The animation is breathtaking. I have a soft spot for the old fashioned, hand drawn style of Snow White and Dumbo but maybe a modern child wouldn’t. Either way the computer generated animation is incredible. It looks wonderful. There is so much detail and the light and shadows look so incredibly real. The characters still maintain the traditional Disney look, the chiseled handsome man and demure, slightly too young looking woman but they’ve updated the look to fit with modern times. One scene in a tavern had all the charm and comedy of an earlier Disney film and was my favourite scene while the lantern scene was simply spectacular.

At $260 million this is the second most expensive movie ever made (after Pirates of the Caribbean 3). I'm a little surprised by this as there were no big name stars, expensive locations or CGI robots etc, but I guess you pay for this quality of animation. And anyway, the film made more than $590 million worldwide so Disney made their money back and then some! Incidentally it cost $60 million more than Toy Story 3 which was released in the same year.

As I said, this film is not aimed at me and I was a bit bored by it. Even a five year old can tell how it will end and the jokes were on the whole not funny to me. Nevertheless I am sure that people born in 2005 will be as charmed and attached to this as children in the 1940’s were by Pinocchio and my generation was by The Lion King. It is far from Disney’s best but also far from its worst and compared to its last ten years output is very good indeed.    


Monday, 5 March 2012

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Cairo, Nest of Spies is a classic Eurospy parody written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, and also stars the leads of that Oscar winner. It is in fact where Hazanavicius met his future wife, Berenice Bejo and her Artist co-star Jean Dujardin. The film is a parody of the spy films of the 1950s and 60s, most notably, early James Bond. It stars recent Oscar winner Dujardin as OSS 117, a French spy in the mould of Sean Connery’s 007 who in the words of the film ‘foils Nazis, beds beauties and brings peace to the Middle East. 117 has all the style, charm and quips of 007 but without any of the intellect or wit. The films opening scene, a homage to classic Film Noir shows 177 foiling the escape of a Nazi in 1945 along with his partner, Jefferson (Phillipe Lefebvre). Fast forward ten years after a fantastic and funny 60s Bond-esque Title Sequence and 117 is sent to Egypt where Jefferson has recently been killed. His bosses believe there may be a link to a missing Russian ship and Islamic radicals and it’s up to 117 to put the pieces together.

Michel Hazanavicius shows that The Artist’s cinematography and set design was no fluke as this film contains impressive and authentic sets and costume. At first glance it feels like you could be watching Dr. No or From Russia with Love. The film rivals Mad Men for its fantastic attention to detail and design. The background and costumes are extraordinary. The look of early Bond is added to with some great homage to those early films such as obvious rear projection cameras whenever the actors are in cars and a slightly grainy look to the finished film.

The film on the whole is in a word, hilarious. For most of its running time I had barely finished laughing about one joke or incident by the time the next one arrived. It’s spectacularly funny and very silly. There are lots of running jokes, including one involving a man in a fez calling the bad guys every time 117 enters or exits a building. This is homage to Bond in which there is invariably a henchman waiting for 007 when he reaches a new location. Another running joke is the increasingly homo-erotic flash backs to 117 and Jefferson on a beach. Much of the rest of the humour comes from Dujardin himself. He is wonderful in the film. Somehow he manages to bumble is way through fights and crime scenes, missing blatant clues and making a complete fool of himself but at the same time remaining suave and cool and irresistible to women. Dujardin has an almost identical look to Sean Connery and from certain angles it looks like you are watching Connery. He is just as smooth and has the most expressionistic eyebrows I have ever seen. Some of the humour comes from the blatant political incorrectness and misogyny which again is reminiscent of the films it is parodying. 117 also knows nothing about his surroundings claiming the Suez Canal is over 4,000 years old and confusing a woman for a Pharaohs’ niece. There are several layers to the comedy.

Dujardin is supported by a good cast which includes Aure Atika as an Egyptian Princess who finds 117 irresistible and begs him to make love to her in every scene which they share. The Artist’s Berenice Bejo is the second lead, playing the assistant of Jefferson but as so often with Bond Girl types, there is much more to her than that. She is fantastic and gorgeous and fast approaching Scarlett Johansson at the top of my ‘women I’d like to ‘meet’ list’. She is the real brains of the piece and often has to lead 117 through the clues. Bejo plays an Egyptian but looks more like a French Socialite and wears ball gowns rather than a Hijab. She looks nothing like a 1950s Egyptian woman but this fits with the early Bond pastiche in which actors were rarely from anywhere near their character’s supposed home country. The film’s baddies all look and play the part and one in particular; Richard Sammel looks like he has walked straight out of an SS Training Camp. He has also played Nazis in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and the brilliant Italian film Life is Beautiful as well as a henchman in Casino Royale so has a fitting resume.

The film contains all of the great sets, locations, costume, puns and action which make early Bond films so wonderful but adds to this a great sense of farce. The film laughs at both the ridiculousness of the genre as well as itself and contains numerous wonderful comic moments. It’s a great spy film and a great comedy. It is far superior to Austin Powers in comedy and look and without it we may not have had The Artist.