Iain Clark (iainjclark) wrote in 52filmchallenge,
Iain Clark

Films 1 to 5

1. Defiance

A sometimes harrowing tale of survival against the odds based on a true story (which I once saw Ray Mears recount in a documentary), in which a pair of Jewish brothers end up sheltering Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Despite some moral ambiguity there's a slight suspicion that the film-makers have had to pick and choose from history to shape a satisfying narrative; a feeling not lessened by casting heroic Daniel Craig in the lead role. Nonetheless the performances are excellent and I found this quite affecting.

2. Persepolis

An animated tale of a girl's coming of age in Iran during the Islamic revolution, adapted from Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel. Both the script and the deceptively simple art are successful at blending intimate feelings with big political events. I mean no disrespect to animated films if I say that despite the strong sense of visual design it's easy to forget that you're watching animation at all. The storytelling drags and meanders a little in places, but overall this is a fine film and a fascinating insight into what is (for me) an unfamiliar culture.

3. Frost/Nixon

Both a predictable underdog-comes-good-in-the-end story and an extremely solid, occasionally outstanding character study of two men. Both lead actors are exemplary in conveying subtle emotion, and strike a difficult balance between impersonation and interpretation. The film settles out as a surprisingly melancholy portrait of Nixon in a way that reminded me very much of George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

4. Valkyrie

Strangely like one of those 1970s films in which every working British actor and one bankable American team up to defeat the Nazis. In this case they *are* also Nazis, with varying degrees of incongruity. (Eddie Izzard gives as good a performance as he's ever given but, possibly unfairly, still feels just this side of parody.) Like Defiance this is based on real World War 2 events but this is a slicker thriller with less high-flown ambitions. It's a very tautly made film with some good set pieces but never quite gripped me, perhaps due to the indefinable air of docudrama. (There's a History Channel documentary on about the same events next week which may be worth a look.)

5. Underword: Rise of the Lycans

Like watching one extremely long flashback. A linear, perfunctory, but above all superfluous prequel that adds neither surprises nor depth and barely bothers to establish why we should care about the characters.


Strangely three of the above films share major actors. The fact that Michael Sheen is headlining both Underworld and Frost/Nixon borders on the surreal. The same might be said of Bill Nighy whose scenery-chewing in Underworld is miles away from his twitchy performance in Valkyrie. Add in the presence of Kevin Bacon in Frost/Nixon and the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game has to be blown wide open. I can now link Kevin Bacon and Eddie Izzard in two moves.


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