CHILDREN'S HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
(PG) 160min «u
Faithful to Rowling’s book, but darker than the first film
I’ve put up with a year of stick from colleagues aghast that I could have rated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone so highly. Twelve months on, I stand by my assessment that, like The Wizard of Oz and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before it, it’s one of the great children’s movies. It’s charming and enchanting in both the everyday and magical senses of the words.
If the film bugged you first time around, then Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is likely to bug you again. Even at two-and-a-half hours, the film tackles the story with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it economy, emphasising the action-adventure at the expense of emotional resonance.
And it is similarly faithful to the book. The tale of the boy-wizard’s second year at Hogwarts, where evil forces have released a vicious serpent into the corridors, is frequently word-for-word identical to Rowling’s prose. The book is compacted and trimmed, with some minor characters excised, but little
to perturb the purists.
Is that lack of cinematic imagination? I don’t think so. Read the books with a film in mind and it’s remarkable how cinematic they seem. Rowling did the hard graft of inventing this world and director Christopher Columbus does a brilliant job at giving it visual form. And this time, he goes one step further by developing the action sequences in a way that only modern cinema can.
The result is something darker than the first - anyone with a fear of spiders should think twice before going - and it gets much more quickly into the meat of the story. The adorable child actors look all the more assured and the fantastic British cast of character actors have their ranks swollen by a very funny Shirley Henderson as the depressed ghost, Moaning Myrtle, a wicked Jason lsaacs as a creepy Lucius Malfoy, and a comically obsequious Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. On a sad
note, this is the late Richard Harris’ last appearance as Dumbledore.
The cast lock together in a tremendously coherent wizardly world, enhanced by superb CGI technology in the creation of Bobby the house elf, so believable that you accept him as one of the live cast. Credit too to the team for not underplaying Rowling’s theme of ethnic cleansing: the desire of the neo-Nazi Draco and Lucius Malfoy to rid the school of ‘mudbloods’ (those of non-wizard parentage) is chillingly topical. (Mark Fisher)
I General release from Fri 75 Nov.
ACTION DIE ANOTHER DAY (12A tbc) 135min .0.
Paying homage to Bond films
When Pierce Brosnan became James Bond four films back in GoldenEye. efforts were made to modernise the series. But that never happened.
That said. the new film opens with Bond betrayed during a mission to assassinate rogue North Korean Colonel Moon.
24 THE LIST 14—28 Nov 2002
which although successful sees him subsequently left to rot in prison. Released 14 months later, Bond makes the killing of Moon's right hand man Zao (Rick Yune) and the unearthing of the individual who betrayed him a personal vendetta. So far. so divergent from the standard Bond plot.
Thereafter. however. Die Another Day relaxes back into the familiar formula with Bond chasing his dual nemesis — Zao and posh Brit entrepreneur Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) — about the globe. from Cuba to Iceland. causing carnage wherever he goes. 0 (John Cleese now promoted from P status to top boffin) arms Bond with a new Aston Martin (complete with invisibility cloaking device - cool!). while the Bond girls (Hale Berry's American agent Jinx. Rosamund Pike's British spy Miranda Frost) provide hardware of an altogether saucier nature.
Berry's appearance. emerging. bikini-clad from the Caribbean
sea. is a direct reference to first Bond girl Ursula Andress' memorable entrance in Dr No. And Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's script uses the Bond film franchise's 40th anniversary to pay homage to previous films with lasers lGo/dfinger). jet packs (Tliiinderba/l) et al.
All of which is great fun. But Die Another Day is an awfully top heavy film. Although director Lee Tamahori gives the action a tougher edge. the opening set- piece — involving a hovercraft chase across a minefield and a marvellously cheesy Bond quip at the end of it — isn't matched by the disappointing airborne finale. Still. Brosnan remains more than up to the role and other action sequences — Bond's fencing bout with Graves. a gadget-tastic car chase across Iceland's icy wastes — thrill. Makes you wonder, though, if they Ought to can the series after twenty films.
(Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri 22 Nov.
DOCUMENTARY BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (15) 119min 0000
Another typical day in the land of the free. the home of the brave. The President's just bombed another country whose name he and his people can't pronounce and Michael Moore. writer. director and producer of this film. is on his way to open a bank account. One that gets him a free gun. All he has to do is sign on the dotted line. state — but not prove — that he has no histOry of mental instability and the teller hands over a very large rifle. Genuinely fascmated. he asks: 'Don‘t you think it's dangerous handing out guns in a bank?‘ This is the first question that Moore asks in a film that makes the overall inquiry about the United States of America: “Are we a nation of gun nuts? Or are we just nuts?‘ Provoked by the events of 20 April 1999 — the day 13
Shock tactics and dark humour
people were shot dead by two pupils at Columbine High School in Littleton. Colorado. and the day the US conducted its largest bombing action in the Kosovan War — the inquisitive filmmaker and renowned satirist looks far and wide to find the answers to some pretty tough questions. On the way he meets goth rock figurehead Marilyn Manson, sociologist and author of A Culture of Fear. Barry Glassner. members of the Michigan Militia who argue that 'being armed is an American responsibility. and finally preSident of the NRA. Charlton Heston. who suggests that the huge scale of gun crime is down to the mixing of races. All this makes for a compelling film. It's by no means easy entertainment — chilling scenes include a montage of America's ugliest overseas interventions set to Leuis Armstrong's ‘What a Wonderful World' and a spilt screen assemblage of CCTV images that recreate the Columbine massacre — but that is. after all. the point of Moore's exercise. Some may find his shock tactics and use of dark humour reprehensible. but as the 20 April 1999 showed. desperate times call for desperate meaSures. (Catherine Bromley) I Selected release from Fri l5 Nov. See feature, pages 12-l4.