Space Dementia – Gravity

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While peril and the clash of man versus the natural world has been explored thoroughly on film in recent times, such as in The Gray or 127 Hours, the inky black void of space remains uncharted. Master Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity takes queues from the adventure genre, but takes them literally out of this world to stunning effect.

Less man versus nature, more man versus nothing, Gravity explores a more primordial feeling of dread and isolation by framing the action almost entirely within the zero-g surrounds of space. Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowlaski (George Clooney) find themselves stranded in the vastness of high orbit when working on the Hubble Telescope. Debris from a defunct satellite shot down by a Russian Missile rips towards them in a deadly hail of metal, leaving the pair adrift in the coldness of space.

What follows is 90 minutes of pure tension. While the threat of drowning or being stranded in the desert has often been explored on screen to terrifying affect, there’s a feeling of the stakes being raised to vast degree with Gravity. Where there’s the slim chance of rescue on the open seas or deep within the Sahara, Space is an entirely different matter. This is played upon during Gravity by the brilliant stroke of using a skeleton cast.

While Ed Harris supports as the voice of mission control in Houston hundreds of miles below, Bullock and Clooney are left to carry the film. The pair rises to the challenge with aplomb. Clooney has charisma to spare, as usual, as Kowalski who offers Dr. Stone a reassuring, confident presence – that is until more calamities befalls the pair in one of the film’s most heart wrenching scenes.

But while Clooney is great in support, this is entirely Sandra Bullock’s film. We’re with her every giant step of the way as she floats, twists, bumps and turns through the void enduring pitfall after pitfall with a combination of nervousness and a growing confidence. It’s a tough task to hold an entire film on your shoulders, but Bullock is such an engaging presence throughout Gravity that if she isn’t the recipient of many golden statues come award season it’ll be an astronomical oversight.

Painstakingly crafted using a mixture of CGI, practical effects and digital tweaks, Curaon has crafted, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, one of this decade’s most visually stunning films. Earth is beautiful from orbit, but it’s the all-encompassing dark that frames the action creates the most gut feelings; feelings of awe, insignificance and terror.

The camera work is particularly amazing. The feeling of zero gravity and weightlessness is explored using Cuaron’s signature long takes that dive, turn and spin with each trial that befalls Stone. It’s as though we’re right there with her in the cold dark. One particular shot plays with our point of view as we find ourselves looking through Stone’s visor in one moment, and then switching outside to gauge her reaction in the next in one liquid motion. Cuaron had already displayed terrific visual fair in his previous efforts, especially Children of Men, but Gravity confirms his place as a visionary of Kubrickan proportions.

Anchored by two amazing performances and enhanced by simply stunning photography, Gravity is contender for not only film of the year, but for film of the decade. And with healthy box office performance, perhaps it heralds a return to the more intelligent, experimental side of science fiction filmmaking.

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A Day To Remember: The Day of the Doctor – Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

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It’s been 50 years since the Doctor first warped onto television screens and straight into pop culture. 11, soon to be 12, incarnations of the time traveller have journeyed across time and space and since the shows reinvention in 2005 has grown from cult favourite to global sensation. With the 50th Anniversary, the BBC has pulled out all the stops with The Day of The Doctor, which is being beamed into homes across the world, but also in cinemas in 3d too.

 A major part of Doctor Who’s mythology is the Time War – an intergalactic conflict involving the nigh-mythical Time Lords and the genocidal Daleks that threatens to consume the universe. To prevent this, the Doctor wipes out both races – an event that comes to shape his character during his next 3 regenerations. While the Time War has been hinted at and alluded to throughout the series, this is the first time it has been depicted on screen for any length of time.

The Day of The Doctor is a treat for hardcore fans, particularly of the latest series. The special sees current Doctor Matt Smith and his predecessor – and fan favourite – David Tennant team up in an adventure that encompasses the far future, Elizabethan England and the present day. John Hurt also appears as a mysterious Doctor – a warrior who fought in the Time War and the incarnation responsible for the burning of Galifrey (the Time Lords home world) in order to halt the fighting.

The main draw of The Day of The Doctor is seeing Smith and Tennant play off each other. Their different portrayals of the same character provide plenty of sparks and laughs, with enough differences between them that show off the diversity that multiple actors can bring to a role.

John Hurt is a stalwart presence throughout. He acts as a buffer between Smith and Tennant, and brings a much-needed touch of gravitas to the proceedings.

The time-travelling, space-faring nature of the show ensures that the pace never really slackens. This is certainly an improvement on the regular length show, as the 90 minute run time means that the reveals, twists and solutions feel natural and organic rather than rushed.

The low budget feel that usually permeates Doctor Who is thankfully avoided in this big-screen offering. It’s slickly shot and, even if the effects are still a bit shonky, still retains the shoddy charm that is the show’s calling card.

There are some disappointments though. A subplot involving shape-shifting Aliens seems to peter out into nothing, and The Time War segments are a let down. Of course, this is probably due to budgetary constraints, but the hints and tales of supernatural monsters and huge conflicts alluded too in the show are ignored in favour of standard Sci-fi laser shootouts, which smacks of missed opportunity.

However, almost all of this can be forgiven by a cameo towards the end that will have fans of the Classic Doctors punching the air in delight. A close up of soon-to-be-Doctor Peter Capaldi’s eyes is also seen – eyes that are full of rage-filled promise of darker direction for the Doctor after the Christmas special this year.

On the whole, The Day of the Doctor is a satisfying celebration of the show’s past for new and older fans alike. While it has it’s flaws, it’s still a Tardis full of fun and hints at great promise for Doctor Who’s future.

Jailhouse Rock – Escape Plan

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Stallone. Schwarzenegger. The two names have cast a long shadow over the action genre since the 80’s, but the two titanic presences have only shared the screen a handful of times – most recently in macho meat fest Expendables 2. Escape Plan, then, is a film many have been waiting for since at least 1987, as its the first time the pair plays off each other for an entire film for the first time.

Prison security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) spends most of his time breaking out of the world’s most formidable prisons to test security systems to their limit. But when he’s deceived and wrongfully in hi-tech mega jail “The Tomb”, he is forced to join together fellow inmate Emil Rothmeyer (Schwarzenegger) devise a seemingly impossible escape and learn the truth behind his betrayal.

While the prospect of the two action legends sharing the bill is enticing, it’s Arnie who walks away with the film. Stallone is his usual, dependable – if barley comprehensible – self, but its Schwarzenegger who hurls himself into this moderately budgeted thriller with aplomb. It’s his charisma that really drives the film and the film suffers when he’s not on screen. Naturally, Arnie steals many of the best lines and even impresses in the acting stakes for once by breaking into a German-spoken fit of feigned madness in order to further their escape attempts.

However, while there’s tonnes of fun to be had watching Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s interactions, Director Mikael Håfström’s film can’t help but retread old prison movie clichés – There’s an eccentric, savage warden in the form of John Caviezal and a sadistic brute of a head guard in potato-headed Vinnie Jones – and utilises a twist that seems illogical and out of place.

Sam Neil is completely wasted as The Tomb’s resident doctor who barely has characterisation beyond being a tool to push the plot along plot. Perhaps the most bizarre casting choice is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as computer expert Hush. Although the action genre heavily relies on the suspension of disbelief, believing that 50 Cent could be a cyber-whizz doesn’t so much require suspension as it does complete obliteration.

 Aesthetically, it’s a mixed bag. While the cinematography is nothing to shout about, the art direction does give the impression of the hi-tech nature of the prison’s innards; all glass walls and neon strip lighting. This is falls down due to the tackiness of the guard’s uniforms and some shonky cgi.

 On the whole, it’s an entertaining effort. It does however beg the question as to why Stallone took the lead rather than Schwarzenegger as the film slacks every time the Austrian Oak is off screen. Will it stand up in the canon of great action films? Probably not. But it is worth it just for the adolescent thrill of seeing two of the genres key players on screen together.

Here Come The Fuzz – Filth

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When it comes to adaptation, Filmmakers have dipped into the seedy, grotty world of Irvine Welsh’s formidable back catalogue a fair few times – the most successful of these being Danny Boyle’s seminal Trainspotting.

Welsh’s knack for creating vivid yet pitch black situations and characters that represent the twisted realities of drug abuse, pornography addiction and a wealth of pop culture touchstones mean most of his works are perfect for the big screen treatment. This time around it’s Filth, Welsh’s third novel, which makes the jump from page to film.

Filth drags us into the warped world of Edinburgh copper Bruce Robinson – a twisted, drug-hoovering, bigoted Freudian nightmare of a man – who is making Machiavellian overtures towards being promoted to Detective Inspector while gradually losing his tenuous grip on reality. Stepping into this cocaine and booze fried mind space is what most might think a bit of a leffield choice: James McAvoy.

McAvoy has always been the perennial good guy since his breakout role in The Last King of Scotland. Filth then sees any illusions of McAvoy’s inability to play anything but goody-two-shoes utterly smashed in a blizzard of coke, booze, whores and autoerotic asphyxiation. McAvoy is a revelation as Roberston. He morphs from drunken monster to an emotionally decaying wreck of a man and back again in a performance that will surely stand out as his greatest. It’s certainly his best to date. McAvoy owns the film and rises to the script’s muck-encrusted scenarios.

We shouldn’t feel any sympathy for this walking embodiment of psychosis, but such is the power of McAvoy’s performance that you can’t help but feel a slight tug on the heartstrings as Roberston tips over the brink of insanity.

Eddie Marsan, fresh from nearly stealing the show in The World’s End, offers suitably timid support as Clifford Blaze, while Jamie Bell and John Sessions are the standouts amongst the supporting cast.

Imogen Poots and Shirley Henderson also excel in their respective roles – Poots as determined Detective Sergeant Amanda Drummond (one of Robertson’s fiercest promotion rivals) and Henderson Blade’s demure yet overbearing wife Bunty.

Writer/Director Jon S. Baird has managed to take the usually picturesque city of Edinburgh to a darker, dingier place. But rather than focus on housing schemes and hypodermics of Leith – ala Trainspoitting – Baird chooses to frame the city through the distorted view of Bruce Robertson giving place a surreal quality that hasn’t really been explored on film before.

Standout sequences include Roberston confronting his psyche in the form of a brilliantly cackling Jim Broadbent during hypnagogic hallucinations. A frankly bizarre David Soul cameo is another highlight, displaying the film’s pitch black humour.

Frightening, disturbing images abound. Whether they are Bruce’s hallucinatory visions or one of the scenes of sexual depravity, various shots and snaps will stick under your fingernails for weeks to come. Particuarly galling is the sight of McAvoy being choked – or “turning the gas on” whilst shagging a colleague’s misses.

 An intense, burning character Study, Filth is a film that will linger as insidious presence at the back of your mind after viewing. While it may not be an all encompassing success as Trainspotting, Filth is nonetheless an excellent film adaptation and is worth it alone for James McAvoy’s unhinged performance.

 

 

Little Shop of Wonders – Last Shop Standing

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The 21s century hasn’t been kind to the independent record shop. With the rise (and fall) of high street stores of HMV and Virgin Megastore, and the continued domination of the MP3, the little record stores that could are beginning to die out. Even with the current vinyl revival, over 500 record shops have closed in recent years. But even with closures, there’s still an outpouring of love for these ramshackle record shacks. Last Shop Standing is an examination, and celebration, of the unique camaraderie and ingenuity that could be found in indie record shops up and down the UK.

Crowd-funded by music lovers and shot over the course of a month, Last Stop Standing embodies the spirit of the shops that it idolizes. Shops up and down the country, from Glasgow to Yeovil, are all given their chance to shine and explain the charm that lies within the racks of vinyl and music memorabilia.

Though there are some brilliantly informative talking heads, (Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Richard Hawley, Billy Bragg) this isn’t a film about celebrities. It’s about the shop owners. As such, the authenticity and insight on hand is brilliant. First hand accounts of the trials and tribulations of these storeowners are simultaneously euphoric and heartbreaking. The admittance that they’re a dying breed particularly tugs and the heartstrings. The closure of the 105 year-old C.F Hudson’s in Chesterfield is one such moment that packs a searing emotional wallop. And yet, the owner’s enthusiasm for vinyl and the simple pleasure of actually buying music is infectious.

The discussion of how the Indie record shop suffered “death by 1,000 cuts” is worth paying attention to. Record pushing jiggery-pokery of the 80’s, and mistreatment by the music industry as a whole is examined, and there are sobering questions posed by Last Shop Standing. While some shops are closing, others are beginning to buck the trend.

Record Store Day is one the catalysts for this latter day vinyl revival. The emotional connection of records is also a contribution to the allure of the record shop. The combination of the art, feel and, obviously, the sound of the vinyl record is linked to the success of the record shop. The personality of the owners is also, rightly, pointed out as one of the allures of the indie shop too.

On the whole, Last Shop Standing is a must for any real music fan. Though it’s a little short, clocking in at a slim 50 minutes, it’s packed with feeling. It’s not solely an exercise in nostalgia, but rather a celebration of the tireless spirit of the record store owners. The next time you’re passing a record shop, go in and have a mooch. This film will convince you not to bother with your Amazons or your Tescos, but rather your Apollo Records or your Acorn Musics as the place to be. The kazoo version of the Bee Gee’s staying live is totally worth watching the whole thing through, regardless of the rest of the content.

Past Master – Citizen Kane

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The dark, foreboding towers of Xanadu is an enduring image. The giant pleasure palace began life as a towering monument to ambition but was destined to become a crumbling, corrupt shadow of it’s former self. Xanadu’s impressive rise and fall mirrors that of its owner Charles Foster Kane.

The story of Kane is one of rags to riches to isolation. Told through flashbacks, interviews and newsreel, Citizen Kane plots the attempts of journalist Jerry Thompson to document life of the reclusive newspaper magnate and unravel the truth about his cryptic last words.

Orson Welles’ timeless meditation on the effects of power still resonates to this day – especially in uncomfortable light of a post-Leveson world. Kane’s journey from idealistic firebrand to a bloated figure of corruption remains a master class in filmmaking.

Welles really is the star of the show. Writing, directing and starring in his first feature film, Welles manages to harness the visual language of a medium that was completely new to him to dazzling effect. For a feature film debut, Citizen Kane takes some beating.

A monumental screen presence, Welles’ turn as Kane is enthralling. The metamorphosis from the youthful newspaper owner to his older, unrecognisable self is presented with such conviction and believability that Welles threatens to outshine the rest of the cast. Luckily a solid cast, particularly Joseph Cotton’s Jedediah Leland, ably supports him.

Renowned for it’s technical innovations, Citizen Kane is a visual triumph. Pioneering deep focus and crane shots – including expert use of miniatures – demonstrate Welles’s knack for framing images on screen.

Liberal use of light and shade, particularly in Xanadu, is used masterfully throughout the entire film. Thompson’s face is perpetually draped in darkness – a proxy for the audience as they ponder on the mystery of Rosebud.

Time hasn’t been kind to all aspects of Kane, however. A lot of the Forties sound design is grating, particularly the shrill tones Dorothy Comingore’s Susan. Which is a shame, because Comingore’s spirited performance and interplay with Welles is one of the film’s greatest strengths.

While Kane’s super mansion may have ended up as a decaying monument to days gone by, Citizen Kane stands as the opposite. Driven by the astonishing Welles, complete with pitch perfect direction and cinematography, Kane remains one of the ultimate examples of the power of Cinema. An enduring classic.  

Old Dog – New Tricks – Skyfall

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After a run of sub par Brosnan adventures, Casino Royale was a breath of revitalizing air for the ailing Bond franchise. Though 2008’s shaky Quantum of Solace may have been a step backwards, Skyfall grabs hold of Bond’s tuxedo and drags him firmly into the 21st century. Skyfall retains the more sombre feeling of Casino Royale while keeping an eye on the franchise’s past. It also plays upon contemporary fears such as terrorism, data theft and even a government enquiry making Skyfall a thoroughly modern spy flick.

After an emotionally charged opening sequence in Istanbul, Bond is left in a fragile mental state. Important data winds up in the hands of an unknown villain – an event that leads to globetrotting trips to Shanghai and Macau. The action also hits the heart of Bond’s world. London itself is threatened with MI6 bombed and M finding herself under Whitehall scrutiny from minister Gareth Mallory, played with multifaceted inscrutability by a fantastic Ralph Fiennes.

Daniel Craig slips back into Bond’s impeccable leather shoes with aplomb. Craig interactions with the cast – particularly a sublime Judi Dench – are snappy and terse, reflecting his more taciturn take on Bond. Stealing the show, however, is the shockingly couiffered villain Silva. Javier Bardem infuses him with a campness that belies the character’s considerable menace and the interplay between him and Craig crackles with exciting chemistry.

For all of Skyfall’s modern trappings, the film does keep an eye on the franchises’ past. All the classic Bond elements are present and correct, and the sight of a silver Aston Martin DB5 is enough to illicit fan girlish giggles and nostalgia.

Expertly lensed by cinematographer Roger Deakins (who was robbed at the Oscars this year), Skyfall is an artier affair than previous Bonds. A stunning hall of mirrors sequence in a Shanghai skyscraper, including an almost balletic shadow soaked fight scene, lit only by the occasional muzzle flash, impresses most of all.

It definitely isn’t perfect though. The point that Bond is getting on a bit is laboured quite heavily; Bérénice Marlohe’s Sévérine exists purely for Bond to make a callous wisecrack and there’s some really shoddy CGI that is quite distracting.

Ultimately though, the action set pieces satisfy – especially a London Underground set foot chase – and the film offers new emotional depths to iconic spy. A more character-driven story than previous Bonds, Skyfall is a triumph and an excellent celebration of Bonds 50 years on screen.

Smash Glass For Entry…On, Second Thought Don’t – Shattered Glass

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Stephen Glass is apparently a brilliant writer. His features and stories make him stand out from the crowd, and Stephen soon begins to shoot up the journo ladder. Respected American political publication New Republic hires our boy for his way with words and his ability to churn out engaging copy. Newly appointed editor Charles Lane picks his articles apart, revealing gaps and inconsistencies. The jig is up. Stephen’s editors and sources discover his fraud and the New Republic swallows its pride by printing an apology to its readers. And obviously fires Stephen.

This real life spectacle – adapted from an article no less – is, at least, a little interesting and opens up questions that ponder Stephen’s mind set and motivations. Questions that are left dangling by director Billy Ray’s decision to not touch on the psychological but rather the practical. What could be an intense character study of a man out of place is actually a dryly-mechanical examination of how the fraud was discovered.

Hayden Christensen is a perpetual annoyance as Stephen. He flashes his puppy dog eyes too often and petulantly whines his way through the film. This all makes it a little hard to believe that Glass was actually a potential journalistic wunderkind. It also made me question why everybody in the New Republic office held him such high personal regard: as he is portrayed Stephen Glass must’ve been an insufferable man-child. And not in the fun Will Ferrell mould.

The supporting cast isn’t up the much either. The usually dependent Peter Sarsgaard and Chloë Sevigny appear to just coast through the film with a sense of detachment and an air of apparent disinterest. Hank Azaria, though, possesses enough warmth as friendly editor Michael Kelly to be a performance that isn’t based around smugness. He makes for a welcome relief, but possess barely any screen time, and before long the film begins to suffer under the weight of walking charisma vacuum Christensen.

Conventionally shot in unimaginative style, and bookended by cheesy voiceovers, the film lacks any real charisma and fails to utilise the story to its full potential. However, the events that lead up to Stephen’s discovery are presented in a lightly engaging fashion, so it’s not a complete snooze fest.

If handled differently, Shattered Glass could have been an impressive psychological thriller. But as the film stands – hampered by listless performances and a dull script – it is a stitled and boring exercise in adaptation.

Incidentally, Season 5 of The Wire features a sub plot that’s similar to Shattered Glass’ so instead of wasting your time on a film starring an actor so wooden I could sand him down and turn him into a nice coffee table, go and watch potentially the greatest TV show ever made.

 

 

Crimson Tide – The Killing Fields

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Cracking open Cambodia’s isolationist shell and revealing the barbarism of Khmer Rouge occupation with such painful realism couldn’t have been an easy accomplishment for director Roland Joffé. And yet with, The Killing Fields, Joffé captures the multifaceted tragedy of the country’s communist oppression with startling reality.

It’s a story that certainly deserves a place on the big screen. Comparable with The Battle of Algiers and Schindler’s List, The Killing Fields is not an easy or even entertaining watch. It is, however, a necessary watch, chronicling as it does the effects of absolute power and cruelty upon a populace – all of which is presented in a fashion that refuses to shirk away from the gory truth.

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, he film opens in Cambodia’s capital in 1973 and charts the relationship between New York Times journalist Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian interpreter Dith Pran as the country slides into chaos. As Pol Pot’s “Year Zero” rips through the country, Schanberg and Pran separated. Schanberg spends the next five years trying to rescue his friend while Pran endures the horrendous cruelty of the ultra left wing regime.

As Joffé mentions on the DVD’s yack-track, The Killing Fields is as much a love story as it is a morality tale, and this is highlighted by the on-screen chemistry between the leading actors. Sam Waterston portrays Schanberg with the impetuousness and spirit you would expect from a cinematic journalist, but also embodies the considerable ethical dilemma that rocks him as the pair is separated with an emotional heaviness.

But the film’s standout performance is from Haing S Ngor. A doctor before acting, Ngor shines in what is surprisingly his first film role. Ngor dealt with the Khmer Rouge’s brutality first hand as he was separated from his pregnant wife by the regime and forced to work in the countryside before escaping to neighbouring Thailand. Drawing on these experiences, Ngor draws on these traumas to deliver a heart wrenching performance of unquestionable believability and authenticity.

The Killing Fields is a film that pulls no punches. Scenes and snapshots will last with you forever. Particularly galling is when Pran manages to evade his captors and awakens in a field of rotting corpses – indisputable evidence of the Khmer Rouge’s viciousness. A section set inside a Coca-Cola factory is a poignant reminder of the American origin of the conflict – a cynical bombing campaign to root out North Vietnamese guerrillas in Northern Cambodia.

Joffé handles the film expertly. Scenes of tension are nearly unbearable and the scenes of violence are grainy, gritty and all the more poignant given that these are all real events. The film’s first half, expertly shot by Chris Menges, is an almost unrivalled document of the chaos and confusion of an armed revolution.

It’s not a perfect film, however. The ending scene teeters on the edge of over-sentimentalism and the film’s often-intrusive score is positively schizophrenic. But these are minor complaints.

On the whole The Killing Fields is really Joffé’s masterpiece. Unflinching and ultimately a brave film (It was released in 1984 – a time when Cambodia was still in the grips of sever inner turmoil), The Killing Fields remains a compelling, if harsh, piece of cinematic realism.

Fashion Faux Pas – The Devil Wears Prada

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The bitch or be bitched-at world of fashion is one that rarely finds its way onto the silver screen. Although Hollywood has shown us that there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking with Ben Stiller’s side-splitting Zoolander, the movie industry has tended to shy away from Paris fashion shows and summer collections. The Devil Wears Prada is a film that hopes to cause some sensation on Hollywood’s catwalk.

Loosely adapted from the bestselling book of the same name by director David Frankel, comedy-drama The Devil Wears Prada follows aspiring journalist Andrea Sachs as she is hired as an assistant to the editor of fictional fashion magazine Runway and thrown into the cutthroat world of the fashion industry. Gradually the job “a million girls would kill for” begins to take over her life, and Andrea must decide whether her new high pressure role is worth compromising her personal integrity for or whether she’d be happier with her man and a less demanding career. Pretty typical stuff.

It’s worth noting that, although the film is set in the headquarters of a magazine, The Devil Wears Prada is more a tale of one woman’s self-discovery than it is a film examining journalistic practices. Office politics are briefly touched upon and Runway’s resident fashionistas are presented as less fashion police and more fashion Gestapo. But the nitty-gritty of actually creating an issue of Runway is only very briefly glimpsed.

Anne Hathaway brings Andrea to life in fairly bog standard way. Sachs is cutesy and innocent enough when she first arrives at Runway, but as her character begins to find her own bitchy streak, and starts to transform into one of the magazine’s resident glamazons, Hathaway is still too earnest and polite as to be convincing as a cold hearted dragon lady. Andrea remains a Primark blouse in Chanel world.

Not to worry though, as The Devil Wears Prada scores high in the bitch stakes thanks to its two standout performances.  Emily Blunt shines as Emily Charlton, Sachs’s bitchy British rival for the editor’s attentions. Sporting an outstanding auburn bob, Blunt is conniving, motor mouthed and downright frosty, spitting out venomous quips with relish. Certainly the film suffers when Blunt isn’t on screen.

Stealing show as the titular devil, though, is the remarkable Meryl Streep who plays Runway’s tyrannical editor Miranda Priestly. Cruella de Ville by way of Josef Stalin, Priestly is a character that could have potentially been turned into a bellowing, scenery chewing maniac. Luckily Streep is too tasteful an actress to traipse down that particular road. Instead, Streep is an icy, detached monster of an editor. Completely laconic and cool, Streep imbues Priestly with mannerisms that possess an almost sociopathic viciousness as she dispatches scathing putdowns with clinical precision. When the horn rimmed specs do fall, in one of the film’s most touching scenes, it’s through Streep’s skill that we realise there actually is a human being behind that permafrost exterior.

Though The Devil Wears Prada is clearly girl’s own stuff, it does have some male presence. Stanley Tucci pops up as Runway’s art director who acts as a type of affable mentor to Hathaway’s character.

The film’s script is another one of its strengths. Chock full of fashion talk and terrific witticisms, it’s a snappy, punchy, and ultimately funny screenplay. Indeed, it is due to the combination of the witty script and Meryl Streep that The Devil Wears Prada manages to escape crushing Hollywood mediocrity.

The film’s New York City backdrop fits perfectly, reflecting, as it does, the hustle and bustle of both the media and the fashion industry. Clever use of montage propels the film along nicely, ensuring a brisk pace. Montages aside, The Devil Wears Prada is shot in conventional and conservative style. It’s a pretty bland film visually.

When the film hits Paris in the third act, however, The Devil Wears Prada begins to drag its feet. Character arcs come to a predictable close as realisations are made and a romantic subplot fizzles out into a mushy conclusion – a shame given the film’s frantic first half. The soundtrack isn’t much to write home about either with upbeat tunes used during the upbeat scenes and typical soppy ballads used during the dramatic scenes.

The Devil Wears Prada certainly is not a bad film. Blessed with a cracking and anchored by two solid turns, it almost makes it off the peg and into this year’s must have collection. The film is unfortunately dragged down by formulaic plotting, unimaginative cinematography and a lame third act. What could have been a stunning Dolce and Gabbana piece remains a pretty summers dress from Topshop.