I really liked this film. Gone Girl is a about a couple Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) who have been married for five years. Amy goes missing. We learn about the couple through a series of flashbacks – on the surface perfect (especially Amy) but it’s clear there are problems with the marriage.
I did find it took a while for the film to get going. I found the dialogue in the scene where Nick and Amy meet for the first time too pretentious. I don’t know whether the Director wants us to like this couple – I certainly didn’t. Initially this is a missing person detective genre with the Nick at some point being the suspect for Amy’s abduction and/or murder. The movie then becomes more of a psychological thriller before morphing into more of a horror genre.
Simultaneously in the second half of the movie there are some delicious scenes of black comedy. Often mixing genres in this way isn’t successful, but in Gone Girl it worked for me. Manipulation is a theme of this movie; not only do Ben and Amy manipulate each other but the audience is manipulated too but in an enjoyable way. 4 stars.
The Riot Club is a thinly disguised version of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club. Membership is by invitation only and restricted to very wealthy, former public schoolboys. Membership of the Riot Club enhances one’s prospects of reaching the upper echelons of the Establishment. The first half of the film deals with the Club’s initiation tests and a romance between a new club member and a northern state-educated female. There were some funny moments in this part of the film. One problem I had was that all the Club members were portrayed as stereotypical ex-public schoolboys so that they all looked and sounded the same to me and I had difficulty telling one character from another. Interestingly in the film itself one outsider remarks ‘They all look the same to me.’
The second half of the film covers the Club dinner; a white-tie affair in the Club’s own uniform held in a gastro pub outside town. But unlike the Bullingdon Club whose dinners merely involve smashing up restaurants and paying over the odds for the damage, the Riot Club night out gets very nasty and ends with serious violence. The nastiness wasn’t just in the violence; the Riot Club members really loathed people who did not share their background. I felt this was over the top; a less ham-fisted more satirical approach would have made a better film. 2 stars.
I have already read the book by SJ Watson, but despite this I still found the film quite good but not as good as the book.
Every time 40 year Christine (Nicole Kidman) goes to sleep she loses her entire memory. When she wakes up she asks the man lying next to her (Colin Firth) who he is. I’m Ben your husband, he replies. Each morning Dr Nash (Mark Strong) phones Christine and reminds her that she keeps a video diary recording what she has learned about herself each day. She finds inconsistencies between her diary entries and what Ben tells.
The book is more intense in that it is written from Christine’s point of view, which the film can only do in the video diary playback scenes. There was a lot of repetition in the book as Christine wakes up each morning and goes through the same routine. This was shortened in the film with just the phone call from Dr Nash to indicate a new day.
The tension does build up in the film but the second half of the book is really scary and the climax is covered better in the book. I’d give the film 3 stars.
Lustrum is the second novel in Robert Harris’s trilogy about the life of Cicero in the last years of the Roman Republic. The first Imperium, which I’ve read, deals with Cicero’s career as a lawyer and politician up to the point of his election as consul. The third book in the trilogy is yet to be published. Lustrum starts with Cicero’s year as consul in year 63BC. Lustrum, as with Imperium, is written from the point of view of Tiro, Cicero’s slave and personal secretary.
Cicero is shown to be a man of integrity and a staunch defender of the Roman Republic. However he is pragmatic and prepared to make political deals that compromise his beliefs. The first half of Lustrum deals with Cicero’s defeat of the conspiracy led by Catalina to destroy the Republic. Harris’s description of these political intrigues makes for thrilling reading. Western politicians no longer murder their rivals but apart from that every stratagem in the modern politician’s repertoire was honed by the Romans. The first half ends with Cicero ordering the extra judicial execution of some of the conspirators.
Cicero now in a state of hubris indulges in some corrupt practices to acquire a luxurious new villa. (Harris dedicates this book to Peter – does he mean British politician Peter Mandelson?) He makes a number of mistakes in particular in allowing himself to be outmanoeuvred by an alliance of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. Caesar is very much the villain in this book. I felt the pace slowed in the second half of the book; there was less action and more of Cicero’s speeches. Although Lustrum is a good read, Imperium is better. 4 stars.