A young computer programmer wins the chance to spend a week at his employer’s estate to participate in a groundbreaking experiment with Artificial Intelligence.

Alex Garland writes this incredible work, makes his debut as a director and succeeds in making an intelligent, challenging piece of sci-fi.

The film is basically a four hander and lends itself to a more intimate experience that is at times uncomfortable but infinitely engaging and fascinating.
Domnhall Gleeson plays the young coder, Caleb who is welcomed into the world of Oscar Isaac’s Nathan, a man who has made his money several times over with a thinly disguised Facebook stand-in ‘Blue Book’. At first he seems to be a regular guy but as the story progresses the audience we realise all may not be what it seems. Isaac is a brilliant actor who hasn’t taken a step wrong in his recent choices. Swedish actor, Alicia Vikander is wonderful playing Ava, the A.I. that Caleb is to give the Turing test to, a test to prove that the machine exhibits intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from a human. The fourth piece to the puzzle is the excellent Sonoya Mizuno as Nathan’s assistant, Kyoko. Everyone here delivers great performances with such rich material.

The idea of the Singularity, the moment when man and machine become one has been a topic of hot discussion over the last few years thanks to Ray Kurzweil and his research and Garland mines this subject with intelligence and skill.

The soundtrack is incredible, building tension and mood minimally. Put together by Ben Salisbury and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, the music becomes a character in its own right. It is stark and cold yet filled with wonder. The cinematography posits the viewer into a world unlike anything we have seen before.

This could be a great companion piece to Moon, they would make a great double bill. Both asking the philosophical questions of what it means to be truly alive. It also sits well in the style that 2001: A Space Odyssey began. Great science fiction eschewing the ridiculous plot contrivances that many films in this genre fall prey to. Clever scripting and directing allows space to communicate with the audience without much being said; a look or a gesture saying so much more than dialogue.

This is a breath of fresh air. Brilliant.

Highly recommended.




THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)


The Cia and the KGB work together during the Cold War to defeat a criminal organization bringing together the talents of spies Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer).

Somebody once said if you haven’t got anything nice to say then say nothing at all. If I stuck to that adage then this would be a very short review. I shall begin, however by saying something good about the film, Hugh Grant; he was, by far, the best thing in this shameful exercise in banality and had everything Cavill and Hammer should have had; charm, charisma, humour, timing, confidence. He has been at it for a while now and clearly knows his craft and it shows.

This is a pale imitation of the series. All the pieces are present, all is lacking is a soul, like Pinocchio without his life, a wooden boy. Or two wooden boys playing at being spies. Giving everyone good reason why not to re-make or re-boot old material. Did Hammer not learn his lesson from The Lone Ranger? Apparently not.

If you want to watch 116 minutes of a fashion advert then ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ is for you.
If you want to watch 116 minutes of a film that spared every expense on charm or charisma then ‘TMFU’ is for you.
If you’re one of those consumers who stop by a DVD vending machine outside a supermarket seriously considering renting one of the movies on offer then ‘TMFU’ is definitely for you.

The success of the original show, which was a LOT more fun than this film, was that it was capitalizing on the success and formula that made James Bond so exciting, and doing it with a lot smaller budget. The casting of Robert Vaughan and David McCallum was a big part of the show’s success. Both of them managing to effortlessly capture the charisma and mystery of their characters. They were both in their early 30’s but came from a different time when men were men and they didn’t have to look like Ken off of Ken and Barbie to be leading men.
Cavill and Hammer fall into the Ken category of actors.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was first broadcast in 1964 and at the time was the only U.S. spy thriller on American tv, 2 years later there were many imitators. Ian Fleming was originally involved in early development, the leftovers from this were the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.). The original title was ‘Ian Fleming’s Solo’, The name had to be changed when Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the Bond producers, demanded the removal of Fleming’s name from the title.

Guy Ritchie has gone from bad to worse with his oeuvre, starting off as a potential British Tarantino and ending up as a parody. This feels like he was a director for hire, so it’s surprising to see that he co-wrote the film with Lionel Wigram. The script is ok, the budget is fairly decent however the action sequences are uninteresting and if the audience is not involved in the character’s journeys because the actors are not engaging enough then all that follows will be a waste of time.

It angered me for the rest of the day but it is my own fault and any vitriol is really aimed at myself for being stupid enough to pay my monies. It was the only film on at the time I was free on that day. My other choices were Trainwreck and Ant-Man which were not on at that time so, foolishly I thought I might get myself entertained by a yarn of sorts and all I got was a yawn of epic proportions.