Valkyrie & Frost/Nixon

Valkyrie is well directed, well acted and technically competent – I just can’t get excited about it despite it being about a period of history and a subject I enjoy reading about. I suspect those without an interest on the subject may find it more enjoyable.

Part of the problem is that whilst the mechanics of the Stauffenberg plot are interesting they are pretty pointless without an explanation for his reasons to commit an act of treason. Sure, there’s a voiceover explanation at the beginning of the film, but it never goes any further than this and the film feels somewhat hollow as a result. Furthermore none of the co-conspirators are even allowed this brief explanation making their involvement even more of a mystery.

It’s also the first film in a long while that I wished had been a little longer. Breathing space may have allowed it to cover some of these problems. Singer never makes uninteresting films, and this is interesting, it just doesn’t feel as good as it could have been.

Frost / Nixon is well directed, well acted and technically competent, but unlike Valkyrie strikes the right balance in drama and reason. Part of this is down to the superb cast and unfussy direction (a typically un-showy Ron Howard – and yes, there is a role for his brother) but the strength is that it starts with a great script. It doesn’t matter how good a cast you assemble, without a decent script it might as well all be for nothing.

The film it brings most to mind is The Insider, starting about a political event but going on to examine the media response to it. Like that it never spoon feeds you (a passing understanding of the Watergate scandal is expected) but does drop enough clues to ensure you keep up. Wonderfully it never falls foul of “the film of the play” syndrome, opening up to reveal a bigger canvas but also tightening the focus of the camera at all times to magnify the focus.

Special mention must be given to Michael Sheen who adds yet another fantastic impression to his cupboard as David Frost, one minute complaining that “I don’t say that” the next smiling about the same line when trying to chat someone up.

Worth watching. And that marks an end of January, half of the silly season films down, still half a dozen or so left.

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