We review Lights Out, Elvis and Nixon, The Jungle Book, Anthropoid, Sing Street, Hell or High Water, and Our Kind of Traitor in this podcast without portfolio. Tune in to find out the skinny on this disparate celluloid bunch!

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Lights Out

As we go through life, we learn things from experience. This is largely why there are nearly no reviews of contemporary horror films on this podcast, as in our formative years over on theOneliner.com we sat through very nearly all of them that touched a multiplex between Y2K and about Y2K7, and our patience with the genre was rewarded with a torrent of cinematic effluent that has very much left us scarred, not through the nerve-jangling terror that their creators hope to engender, but a buttock-numbing boredom born of a million cliches recycling, slowly.

But every now and then one catches my attention, normally after a parade of people who ought to know better declare that this one’s not that bad, really, honest guv, and even more rarely I’ll actually enjoy one of the films. Lights Out, as it happens, is one of those films, although perhaps not one I enjoy strictly as a horror film.

The prologue provides an effective demonstration of the mechanics of the film. A man is working late in what appears to be a mannequin storage facility, which already could only be much creepier if it featured clowns and Victorian-era dolls. His co-worker makes to leave, but catches sight of a subtly inhuman silhouette in the darkness that disappears in the light. Suitably spooked, she warns her co-worker Paul (Billy Burke) about this. He understandably dismisses this, which turns out to be his undoing as he’s later stalked and killed by this light-averse monster.

Mourning this grizzly passing are Sophie (Maria Bello), and their son Martin (Gabriel Bateman). Indeed, it’s sent Sophie back into a spiral of depression that she’d previously been treated for. Child services get involved when Martin keeps falling asleep at school. Martin asks them to contact his sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), who living alone in a cross town apartment after a rift formed between her and her mother. Martin confesses that he’s too scared to sleep at nights, with Sophie apparently talking to an imaginary friend all night and keeping the house in the dark all of the time, freaking Martin out. Rebecca, along with her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), take Martin back to his home to confront her mother, and after seeing the state she’s in, decided to allow Martin to stay with Rebecca in the hopes of him getting some sleep.

Rebecca’s convinced Sophie is just falling apart after her stepfather’s death in the same manner as she did when her father disappeared on them some years ago, however doubt starts creeping in that night when she sees that there subtly inhuman silhouette scratching something on the floor. The light dispels this, but the scratches remain, with the name “Diana” permanently ruining her chances of getting her rental deposit back. This reactivates what seems to be her suppressed childhood memories of her run-ins with this nocturnal menace. Child services also show up to return Martin to his mother, as while sympathetic and understanding, Rebecca’s history of suicide attempts doesn’t make her prime guardian material.

Convincing an understanding Bret that they need to investigate this Diana character further, they go digging through her mother’s past, particularly her time in a mental health facility, which as it turns out was what Paul was investigating at the time of his cessation. The details I shall skip over, partly to leave that discovery to the interested and partly because it’s not like it makes a lick of sense anyway, but Diana appears to be the vengeful ghost of her mother’s friend that’s obsessed with “protecting” Sophie, largely meaning protecting their bond from anyone threatening to take Sophie’s attention away from Diana.

Rebecca and Brett decide to confront Sophie about this, who initially denies this before managing to slip a note to her asking for help, and, well, the rest of the film deals with their attempts to bring about an end to this in ways that are best left unmentioned to avoid spoiling it for the interested. This, actually, is a little frustrating, as the film has so many great little moments and scenes enabled by the rules set up so effectively in the opening salvo. You’re safe in the light, you’re not in the dark. If you can get lights on somehow, even if you’re currently being hoist aloft by this supernatural irritant, she’d going to disappear without even a puff of smoke – causing you to succumb to gravity.

It helps that these lovely little vignettes are strung together by a cast that actually have some talent, with isn’t something you can rely on in this genre. It’s great to see Maria Bello again, certainly in something that’s not The 5th Wave, and her portrayal of her character’s turmoil is more nuanced and convincing than you’d normally hope for in horror films. Teresa Palmer, who impressed me in zombie comedy Warm Bodies a few years back, is a capable, dynamic and convincing lead, and Diana’s human embodiment Alicia Vela-Bailey uses her dance and acrobatic background to bring some eerie movements to the character that recalls Alien in places.

Now, if your definition of a good horror film necessarily includes it being scary, this strikes out a little, at least as far as I’m concerned. For the most part this is subverting genre tropes, mainly with characters that mostly make sensible decisions rather than doing the stupidest possible thing at all times, but it’s still bound by the genre formats and cinematic convention enough to make it a little predicable as to where the next creepiness will unfold, although it earns massive brownie points from me by not relying on loud orchestral stabs to provide jump scares. It must be said, your mileage may vary on this point – as mentioned previously, this is very far from my first time at this rodeo, and there’s only so many ways to skin this cat. Predictability aside, it at no point stopped being enjoyable, with many innovative little touches, and so is the most entertaining horror film I’ve seen in years.

So, how’s that for a debut directorial performance – and with it currently hovering around $140 million from a budget of $5 million, it certainly puts UK savings interest rates into perspective. Crucially, it deserves every cent of it, and I look forward to seeing what David F. Sandberg does next.

Elvis and Nixon

On the 21st of December 1970, United States President Richard Milhous Nixon met with royalty. A king. THE King, in fact. Elvis Aaron Presley.
Two months later, on the 16th of February 1971, Nixon began recording all meetings and telephone calls that took place in the Oval Office.

So just what occurred in this famous, but unrecorded, get-together (the official photograph of which is the single most-requested document in the US National Archives) that precipitated Nixon’s legendarily paranoiac record-keeping that eventually brought about his downfall?
That is the question that Liza Johnson’s comedy drama seeks to answer.

In the midst of his comeback era, with social discord and anti-Vietnam War sentiment growing, Elvis Presley is dismayed at the direction he sees the youth of the USA taking, and decides that his country needs him. He calls his long-time friend Jerry Schilling, and the two travel to Washington DC, whereupon Elvis rocks up to the gatepost of the White House, gives a hand-written letter to the bemused guard, and requests to see the president. As you do.

Now for most regular folks this tactic may not end well, but this is Elvis. Word that the most popular and recognisable figure in the entertainment industry is waiting outside reaches administration official Egil Krogh and White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman and, after confirming that, no, this isn’t a piss-take, and, yes, that really is Elvis, yes, THE Elvis, out there, plans are put into motion to wangle a meeting with The King into the president’s schedule.

Elvis returns to his hotel, and later into urban DC, for some soul-searching, while Nixon’s advisors try to convince him that meeting as influential an entertainer as Presley is a much more valuable use of his day than what is currently in his schedule (presidential nap-time, should you be wondering). Duly convinced, Tricky Dick and the King meet, and Elvis submits his formal request that the President make him an undercover “Federal Agent at Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Though the meeting wasn’t recorded on tape, portions were witnessed, and later recounted, by Krogh and another aide, and while much of Johnson’s film is conjecture, the central issue of Elvis’s meeting, and request for a law enforcement credential, are, astonishingly, true. As is the fact that he did, indeed, receive the Bureau badge that he requested.

For most of the rest, though, including the nature and details of the confab, the film, from a script by Joey and Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes, makes it all up, and does so gleefully.

Richard Nixon has always been a figure fit for caricature, impression and imitation, and is rarely ever played as anything but (Frank Langella’s earnest, and excellent, impersonation in Frost/Nixon is very much a rare deviation), and Kevin Spacey here is no exception, with his take on Nixon bordering on the cartoonish, but it fits well with the tone of the piece, and he is entertaining throughout, even if this is Spacey on cruise control.

There is dependable, if unremarkable, support from Tate Donovan as Haldeman, Colin Hanks as Krogh (though Hanks becomes more endearing as his facade of professionalism falters and he becomes as starstruck by Elvis as everyone else), and Johnny Knoxville as a member of Elvis’s retinue, but the plaudits here go to Alex Pettyfer as Jerry Schilling, a relatable voice of calm, reason and true friendship to Elvis throughout, and especially to Michael Shannon as the King himself.

While Shannon doesn’t possess the physical, or vocal, weight and presence of Presley, his talent shines through, and here he resists portraying Elvis as a caricature (like Nixon, there are few figures more readily open to such an approach as the man from Memphis). Rather, his Presley is a sensitive, sympathetic and troubled man, albeit wildly deluded, who it is easy to believe earnestly feels that his country is in a bad way, and that he truly can help. There is also an undercurrent of sadness and loneliness in Shannon’s portrayal that, while present in the script, would certainly be submerged by the inherent absurdity of this premise in lesser hands.

There is also more than a hint of mischief, though, in both the script and Michael Shannon’s acting, that might make you think that Elvis doesn’t really believe what he’s saying. Maybe. This makes the final act, with the preparation for, and realisation, of the meeting by far the most satisfying and entertaining portion of the film, and well-worth patiently waiting through the relatively sedate first two acts for.

Some of the reported dialogue of the meeting has been omitted in favour of goofiness and physicality, which is a little to the film’s detriment as it is as absurd, or more so, as what has been left in, but Elvis & Nixon is a light, entertaining tale of the coming together of two of the most famous people of their era, and is another opportunity to enjoy just how fine an actor Michael Shannon is.

Jungle Book

This take on writer and baker Rudyard Kipling’s work eschews the traditional animation of the much-loved Disney animation for CG animals, with a star-studded voice cast, and a live action man-cub. As it’s already taken all of the monies, we won’t labour the recap of Mowgli’s adventures with the various talking animals of the jungle, friend and foe alike.

Like all of Disney’s animations, the original holds no purchase in my heart, to the point where I’m not exactly 100% sure I’ve watched it all the way through. I remember the songs, obviously, I’m not a monster, but the story of it? Not so clear to me.

It’s a likeable enough story, with just a few elements that got under my skin. While the CG is pretty damn good, I think we’ve now reached the point where the CG models of the animals are falling into the uncanny valley. It seems worse when they’re talking – obviously it’s a daft criticism, but something in my hindbrain turns its brain-nose up at the talking animations because my limited mental model of the animal kingdom does not include speech. It’s the sort of thing that, in my view, increasing the realism actually makes it much less convincing than a traditional cel shaded outing.

The kid playing Mowgli is also occasionally annoying. Not that often, but often enough.

Overall, it’s perfectly fine – stronger than most of the summer’s tentpoles, even in an admittedly shoogly year for them. The question remains as to whether you’re better off watching this or the original, and I suspect the answer, as in the great bulk of these cases, is the original.


There’s no excuse, in an age where reasonably reliable information is freely available at your fingertips, for my lack of knowledge about what happened in the then Czechoslovakia after it was largely handed over to Hitler’s Germany before WW2 in the Munich Agreement, or Munich Betrayal as I believe it’s more commonly known over there for understandable reasons. Our history lessons were more focused on the broad strokes and the British fronts, which has a certain logic but leaves a great deal of further reading for the interested. And while I’m interested in this, it’s also hugely depressing, and there’s these videos of cute kittens and puppies on the internet. Have you seen them? They are adorable.

Anthropoid aims to fill in a little of this gap, based around the plot to assassinate the hated “Butcher of Prague” Reinhard Heydrich, played here by Detlef Bothe. This charmer was one of the highest ranking Nazi officers, and is largely held responsible for Kristallnacht and later the so-called “Final Solution”, so even as someone uncomfortable with the general idea of extra-judicial killing, it could rarely happen to a more deserving target.

Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and Josef Gabcík (Cillian Murphy) are two exiled Czechs, working for the Government in Exile and trained by the Special Operations Executive. They’re parachuted back into Czechoslovakia with orders to kill Heydrich, who has been been using a brutal, execution heavy fist to crush any resistance to the annexation. Indeed once Jan and Josef manage to make contact with the resistance’s leader Uncle Hajský (Toby Jones), there’s only a handful of them left.

After a brief period of worrying about the possible repercussions, rightly as it turned out, Jan and Joseph set about coming up with a plan – you’d think there might have been some attempt at this beforehand, but I guess there’s no substitute for boots on the ground. It turns out Heydrich has a rather blasé attitude to his safety while transferring between his home and office, travelling in an open top jeep occasionally without any armoured escorts. Jan and Josef hit upon the route-one solution of ambushing him at a hairpin bend with a Sten gun and some modified anti-tank grenades. I guess they can’t all be Operation Fortitude.

As part of their cover they are introduced to Marie Kovárníková (Charlotte Le Bon) and Lenka Fafková (Anna Geislerová), walking around as young lovers being less suspicious than two blokes casing the joint. For both men these cover relationships become actual ones, even despite the very real risk that there’s no escape plan for either men after pulling the trigger on the assassination.

What follows is a matter of historical record – the coming close to failure when the machine gun jams, although wounds sustained from the grenade does Heydrich in a week later. The two manage to escape, but in the midst a massive manhunt there’s no way to leave Prague. The remaining resistance fighters hole up in a Cathedral, only to be betrayed by one of their own for a million Reichsmarks, leading to a tremendous firefight against odds that the Czechs ultimate cannot overcome.

Anthropoid winds up being one of those unrelentingly solid films that, while there’s not a damn thing wrong with it, is somehow quite difficult to get all that worked up over. Murphy and Dornan provide solid central turns, and they are both portraying brave, admirable men, but men that understandably aren’t’ the sort of flamboyant or overly dramatic character that you might write if you weren’t shackled by reflecting reality.

Likewise the supporting roles are well handled, Toby Jones in particular being his reliably excellent self. Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerová both play likeable, strong characters, doing a great job of showing it’s not just the men making sacrifices in wartime.

Director Sean Ellis squeezes some decent tension from certain scenes, and his handling of the shootout at the cathedral is very good indeed. Perhaps it’s too grounded and resolutely unspectacular for some in this age of comic book sugar-rushes, but, frankly, occasional accent slips aside, Anthropoid doesn’t do much wrong in the two hours you’ll spend with it. On that basis, I can’t not recommend it to everyone. So, go and see it, everyone.

Sing Street

Writer-director John Carney made himself a critical and commercial darling with his breakout 2007 hit Once; the tale of a busker and a Polish immigrant whose burgeoning relationship is mirrored in the music they write and rehearse together across one week in Dublin. That movie eventually spawned a hit West End musical, so, no pressure or anything.

Subsequent projects have seen Carney flirt with a return to relative obscurity, his closest to mainstream success being 2013s Mark Ruffalo / Keira Knightley-starring Begin Again. While that movie leaned somewhat heavily on the key themes of Once it didn’t resonate quite so well with audiences or critics, but I’m happy to report that Carney’s latest effort, Sing Street, is most definitely a return to form.

Conor Lalor (Ferdia-Walsh Peelo) is a teenage boy living in 80s Dublin whose parents have hit hard financial times, necessitating that he be enrolled at a free Catholic boys’ school as opposed to the private education he has received thus far. Immediately earmarked as an up-market outcast, Conor falls predictably foul of school bully Barry (Ian Kelly), and perhaps more worryingly school principal Brother Baxter (Don Wycherly) whose strictly enforced “black shoes only” policy proves problematic for a boy who only owns brown loafers. Conor does make a friend in Darren (Ben Carolan), another outcast who shows him the ropes of Synge Street School for Boys.

Having had his eye painted black by Barry, Conor leaves school on his first day to see an attractive young woman, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), loitering across the street outside a home for young women. Immediately smitten, Conor strikes up an awkward conversation, learning that Raphina is apparently a model. Leaning heavily into his older brother’s musical disposition and the resultant ad-hoc education in musical arts, Conor naturally asserts that Raphina ought to be in his band’s new music video, boldly sidestepping the issues raised by said band not actually being a thing that exists. With haste Conor informs Darren that they need to start a group.

The ensuing ensemble, named for their school, is rounded out firstly by musical prodigy Eamon, and then three more local kids united less by musical ability than their unpopular geek status. Their first song, Riddle Of The Model, is a surprisingly accomplished affair (the video less so), and establishes the band’s new romantic aesthetic, complete with accompanying garb and make-up; features that do not sit well with the Catholic School ecosystem of the early 80s. Conor soon finds himself spinning the three very fragile plates of home, school and love lives as he tries to insinuate himself into the affection of the older Raphina, cope with the emotional aftermath of his mother’s infidelity, and all the while avoid having Barry stave his head in for any number of arbitrary crimes against popularity.

Sing Street falls comfortably into the now-crowded pantheon of low key teen male coming of age movies alongside the likes of Submarine, but it manages to set itself apart for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is a movie of undeniable charm, most of which emanates from it’s naturally charismatic young leads. It’s debatable whether Carney’s reluctance to delve more deeply into the brutality of the Irish Catholic School system is a plus or a minus; on the latter hand it might have served as great emotional leverage, however I was quite pleasantly surprised by the movie’s staunch refusal to allow itself to be anything less than upbeat for the majority of it’s running time.

While the band’s near-miraculous musical competence may prove slightly too fantastical to swallow on the whole, it does serve the plot incredibly well and the musical numbers are authentic, well-written and enjoyable slices of retro pop in their own right. Similarly the relationship betwixt Conor and Raphina may at times feel a little stretched, however it remains charming, delivers no small amount of pathos and yet also avoids the pitfall of feeling exploitative from either end.

Despite being ostensibly a musical, the primary weapons in Sing Street‘s arsenal are affection and humour, and that is always going to be a winning combination for a broad audience when handled correctly, however Carney’s skill in weaving something satisfying that relies less on easy leverage is evident, even if the stage curtains come perilously close to falling down on a number of occasions. I suspect the appeal of the movie on a personal basis will depend on one’s tolerance for the fanciful, what with my prior observations and also the movie’s undeniably daft final act that is designed to tie back to the well-known music video that inspires Conor back in the first reel. I for one applaud the fanciful and find Sing Street a heartfelt pleasure, and I hope you will do too.

Hell or High Water

English director David Mackenzie brings Sicario-scribe Taylor Sheridan’s latest tale to the big screen in Hell or High Water, a tale of two brothers robbing a series of banks in West Texas, but with better reason, and more smarts, than most.

Their story and motivations, as well as their characters (and those of the Texas Rangers tasked with bringing them to justice) are deftly drip-fed to us through gruff, terse dialogue, and just as often through what the characters don’t say. Sheridan’s screenplay is well-crafted (though there are caveats, of which more later), leavened with dry humour, refreshingly free of exposition-heavy scenes, and all in a sea of moral ambiguity.

My notable issues with the film include more than a few derogatory references to Mexicans and Native Americans, particularly from Bridges’ Ranger Hamilton, and while I’m not clear if this is prejudice from the screenwriter, or a reflection of the attitudes of genuine Texans, it serves little purpose in the film other than to make the ostensible hero of the piece seem kind of odious. (It is well-established that the bickering and trading of insults between two colleagues or acquaintances can be a shortcut for the nature of a relationship and the character of those in it, but here that just makes it seems like Hamilton is a racist bully, and his partner Alberto a minority who is deeply uncomfortable but has no choice but to grin and bear it.)

What this element of Bridges’ character does help to achieve, though, is to paint more of the characters in shades of grey, rather than the black and white “good guys vs bad guys” that the opening of the film seems to indicate (something that sets it apart from the sanctimony that besmirched No Country for Old Men, a film that Hell or High Water is sure to draw comparison to). As we learn more about what and, crucially, why the brothers are doing what they are doing, they begin to accrue ‘some’ sympathy.

Otherwise, though, Bridges is a delight as the law enforcer charged with bringing the bank robbers to justice, drawling his way through the film like Rooster Cogburn minus the alcohol problem, and featuring one or two moments of genuine screen-acting brilliance.

The.. I won’t say revelation, as I was already well-convinced that he was beyond merely competent… but for me the most noteworthy performance here is that of Chris Pine, looking most un-Kirk-like in weather-worn skin, greasy moustache and dusty clothes, who plays the quieter, smarter, and more introspective of the larcenous brethren. While ex-con big brother Tanner (Ben Foster) is an unrepentant recidivist who delights in the mayhem and violence of the criminal life, Pine’s Toby is an altogether more pensive and calm figure, who has resorted to, or been forced into, criminality through desperation and a deep sense of injustice.

Toby, in fact, brings to mind Ewan McGregor’s role in Mackenzie’s 2003 film Young Adam (Mackenzie in fact, has previous form with, brooding, troubled, introverted, young men, having also directed 2007’s Hallam Foe), and, as well as being a considerably more engaging viewing experience than either of those two previous works, Pine’s quietness allows Foster’s slightly manic Tanner to stand apart, emphasising the difference in the brothers’ personalities, while both the script and the acting are more than good enough to ensure that we never fail to believe that they are family.

The setting is hard to pin down – cars, clothes and technology could place it pretty much anywhere in the past 15 years – though my guess is that it’s a contemporary West Texas in economic decline. This matches with one of the film’s main themes, that of the extinguishing and disintegration of the traditional rural Texas (and, by extension, the country). The “banks are evil, they destroyed everything” rhetoric seems a little heavy-handed at times, but, to be fair, it’s hard to tell a parable of the effects of corporate greed and the disastrous impact of banks on small-town USA without mentioning it from time to time.

Mackenzie has a firm hand at the tiller, and ensures the slow burn of the story kindles evenly, and with no abrupt changes of tone (even if one sequence involving the reckless behaviour of the older sibling threatens to become somewhat over the top), and successfully creates what at first seems a straightforward crime flick, but in reality is about change and loss.

This is a thriller played out with the sensibilities, and pacing, of a Western, a slow-motion chase film, but, for the most part, it works. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens, Hell or High Water takes place in a Texas (in reality New Mexico) of baked, golden, landscapes of sand and dust as gritty, hard and unforgiving as the inhabitants. While it doesn’t hit the heights of Sicario, as the early reviews out of Cannes may have suggested, this is a solid and entertaining diversion, and worth catching for Bridges (and when, Tron films aside, isn’t this the case?) and Pine, who continues his efforts to ensure he can never be thought of simply as “that Star Trek guy”.

Our Kind of Traitor

Now, I don’t know about you lot, he said, knowing exactly what this lot as defined by the other people on this podcast think about the subject, but I loves me some John Le Carre adaptations, and his transition from intrigues at the height of the Cold War to contemporary subjects such as big business and terrorism has provided the story for some of my favourite films. I don’t think I’ve seen a film adaptation that I didn’t like, so I’m very much on-board for this Russian mafia based outing.

University lecturer Prof. Perry Makepiece (Ewan McGregor) is holidaying with his partner, high-ranking barrister Gail Perkins (Naomie Harris), in the hopes of repairing their relationship after Perry slept with a student. A veritable parade of further sources of stress appear once Perry befriends gregarious Russian Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who quickly shows off his eidetic memory in the same way that Chekhov might show you his guns. Quite why the one time Enterprise navigator is showing off his biceps is a question for another day. The sun’s not even out.

At any rate, after Perry and Dima develop a rapport, Dima asks him to convey a memory stick of information back to London for the attention of MI6. It turns out that Dima is a high ranking financial oligarch in the Russian mafia, who’s adept at seeing the writing on the wall. The new head of the mafia, “the Prince”, is in the process of setting up a bank in the City of London to act as a one stop money laundering facility, eliminating the need for the current system of thugs/accountants that Dima is part of, and if the experience of others is anything to go by, eliminating Dima himself after signing over control of the accounts he manages. Dima’s taking a desperate punt on being able to save his family, and hopefully him also, by trading the information on those British politicians receiving the bribes needed to grease the wheels of the bank’s creation for protection from his new boss.

Perry agrees, unbeknownst to Gail, who’s soon clued in once he’s taken aside at his own request at border control for a lengthy chat with MI6 agent Hector (Damien Lewis). While Perry hoped that handing this over would be the end of it, soon Hector’s asking for Perry’s help in gaining Dima’s trust by being present at a meeting he’s setting up in Paris. Hector is intrigued by the implication that their ex-boss, now MP Aubrey Longrigg (Jeremy Northam) is heavily involved, someone who Hector has long suspected of corruption but been unable to prove it, whom he also blames for having his son jailed on trumped up drugs charges having learned of his suspicion.

And, well, so it goes, without wanting to get too deep into the details which would only really be spoiling it for you, but suffice to say that Perry gets far more deeply involved in this than he anticipated, and Hector comes under great pressure to drop this investigation from his higher-ups, leading to him essentially running it as a borderline rogue operation, with far less backup than you’d like when extracting someone from a group so powerful and violent as the Bratva.

Like A Most Wanted Man before it, this is a very solid story told in an uncomplicated, non-flashy way that I suspect some people may find a little too sedate, given the subject matter, but happens to be directly up my alley. It doesn’t have the period trappings of the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to provide a hook, which is perhaps also peak Le Carre in terms of story, but that’s no barrier to my enjoyment of a really well told narrative.

Where it falls short in comparison to those mentioned is in the performances, which I must stress is not to say that they’re bad. McGregor and Skarsgård show great chemistry, and Skarsgård is particular gives a hugely enjoyable turn that’s boisterous, almost but not quite to the point of parody, making the Brits stereotypically reserved in comparison. In particular Lewis, who admittedly is an actor I’ve never been fond of – I’ve not forgiven him for 2003’s Dreamcatcher – is a little underwhelming in the George Smiley analogue role. Not bad, but it feels rather like he and to a lesser degree McGregor weren’t given much flavour to insert into the roles, making them a little bland – certainly compared to Skarsgård.

For all that, it’s not too important – I go to Le Carre’s work for the story and that’s delivered well here. Perhaps it’s a minor Le Carre work, but Le Carre on an off day is still more enjoyable for me than most other films, so it’s getting a recommendation from me. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates the slower burn of spycraft, as so elegantly described by us in our criminally under-appreciated February 2016 episode, going by the download stats, then this is a solid if unspectacular choice.


We’d like to take a moment to thank all of you that we’ve spoken to on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google Plus, and a special thanks to those who left a review on iTunes – the mysterious aubergine928, Ruby Todd (Daina Paulikas / Todd Schuman of the Maximise This podcast), and BenJono (Ben Strivens / Jono Scott of the We Watch Anything podcast), two podcasts I can heartily recommend. Props also, and as always, to the Magic Lantern podcast, whose episode on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I shall be relistening to in preparation for our next podcast on 70’s horror classics.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed today, please hit us up on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on Facebook (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), or email us at podcast@fudsonfilm.com. If you want to receive our podcast on a regular basis, please add our feed to your podcasting software of choice, or subscribe on iTunes. If you could see your way clear to leaving a review on iTunes, we’d be eternally grateful, but we won’t blame you if you don’t. We’ll be back with you on the 1st of October with a look at some classic 70’s horrors, but until then, take care of yourself, and each other.