THRILLER EDGE OF DARKNESS (15) 116min ●●●●● Director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro) returns to the scene of one of his early successes with this feature film adaptation of the 1985 BBC television series that helped make his name. Mel Gibson (in his first starring role since 2002’s We Were Soldiers) plays Thomas Craven, a Boston detective investigating the murder of his activist daughter. His search for the truth brings him into contact with CIA officer Matt Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) and dodgy businessman Bennett (Danny Huston). As grieving father Craven grunts his way through conspiracies and cover-ups, he realises that the personal may just be about to become the apocryphal.
DRAMA INVICTUS (12A) 133min ●●●●●
‘Rugby is’ as Oscar Wilde noted on behalf of the sane and humane ‘a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the centre of the city.’ Clint Eastwood’s new film Invictus not only invites the bullies back within the city walls but hands them the Nobel Peace Prize. Based on John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed a Nation - Invictus recounts how, following his inauguration as President in 1994, Nelson Mandela pulled off the political masterstroke of uniting a racially and economically divided South Africa in support of South Africa’s national rugby team the Springboks, once a symbol of Boer-ish (and boorish) oppression.
Mandela’s game plan was to convince Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Boks to bring his floundering team to victory at the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship and then convince the football- loving majority of South Africa to support a team that comprised of just one black player. Mandela was, in essence, creating a mountain of reconciliation and forgiveness for his justifiably angry country folk to climb. In terms of political gambles it carried with it
the possibilities of both euphoria and despair.
Relocating the same production team he has used in his last few films to Cape Town and Johannesburg locations Eastwood brings a no nonsense approach to this loaded material. Focusing in on the relationship between Mandela, played with twitchy serenity by Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon’s Pienaar, Invictus has a predictable trajectory but one leavened by minute details about the tedium of governance, ingrained prejudices and a belief that hope will always spring eternal.
Eastwood’s penchant for shooting fast and loose doesn’t quite pay off here though. The Boks epiphanic trip to Robben Island, their untroubled rugby workshops in the townships and Mandela’s ridiculous town hall grandstanding to the sports committee (though this is later deflated) and the constant attempts to create false tensions are all problems with Anthony Peckham’s original script, and a filmmaker in less of a hurry would have surely reworked them. Still, Invictus is a work of laudable emotion about the universal language (and politics) of sport, and how, to paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s great poem from which the film takes it’s name – the dust, sweat and blood of the fight are everything. (Paul Dale) ■ General release from Fri 5 Feb.
By relocating the action from Britain to America and removing many of the more mystical elements of Troy Kennedy Martin’s original anti- Thatcherite teleplay, Australian playwright Andrew Bovell and The Departed screenwriter William Monahan have written a taut adult revenge thriller whose relationship to the original is merely a gesture of disdain for governmental corruption. Still, Campbell directs with his usual studied energy and Gibson is entrancing as the lumbering wounded lion in search of redemption. (Paul Dale) ■ Out now on general release.
ADVENTURE/ANIMATION ASTRO BOY (PG) 93min ●●●●●
A popular manga in Japan since 1952, and a cult TV show in the US since the early 1980s, Astro Boy makes a bid for worldwide domination in this flashy but flatly realised animation from director David Flushed Away Bowers. Freddie Highmore provides the voice of Astro Boy, a robot child cloned by Dr Tenma (Nicolas Cage) from the DNA of his son, who was killed in an explosion caused by Metro City’s power mad politician President Stone (Donald Sutherland). Rejected by his father, the space age Pinocchio learns to fly on jet-powered legs, but a knockout blow landed by one of Stone’s guards banishes Astro Boy to the robot graveyard that surrounds the city.
With Kirsten Bell, Charlize Theron, Samuel L Jackson, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy and Nathan Lane also contributing, there’s clearly been no expense spared here, but Astro’s instigation of a robot revolution and the po- faced environmental themes invite unfavourable comparison’s with Pixar’s WALL-E. Despite some decent animation and the valiant efforts of an overqualified cast, Astro Boy’s first big-screen adventure is also likely to be his last. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 5 Feb.
48 THE LIST 4–18 Feb 2010