Up in the Air – Surprisingly Grounded

Up_in_the_Air-147711825-largeWhen Up in the Air was announced to be coming to theatres near you in 2009 I looked at the poster and thought “Well that looks boring” and decided to watch Up instead, a film with three less words in the title but packing a huge emotional wallop that we have all come to experience from that film.

However, with the magic of BBC iPlayer, I saw that it was on and decided to give the film a chance. After all, it was by the guy who made Thank You for Smoking and Juno and between 2009 and 2014 I’d watched and loved both those films so I might as well give this one a chance.

Up in the Air centres around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who works for the almost harmlessly named Careers Transitions Corporation (CTC) which means he travels the United States firing people for bosses who are “pussies who don’t have the balls to sack their employees”. He loves his life in the skies, feeling at home in the airport and the skies rather than his tiny and sparsely filled apartment.  

However Bingham is called in by his boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) to the CTC’s offices in Omaha, Nebraska to announce that he has hired some new blood, in the form of recently graduated Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), with new ideas. Instead of flying people across the country to fire people, she proposes to fire people via videoconference, thus saving a fortune for the company. This, to say the least, disgusts Bingham.

After a confrontation between Bingham and Keener, with Bingham asserting that Keener has no idea how to fire someone in real life, Gregory decides to send Keener with Bingham on the road to show her how firing is done. And thus the tale begins, between modern efficiency and the personal touch as well as a flowering relationship between Bingham and another travelling businesswoman Alexandra ‘Alex’ Gordon (Vera Famiga).

I must say that that, despite constantly confusing Up in the Air for George Orwell’s novel Coming Up for Air, this film really grows on you as the film progresses. George Clooney, for all his suave persona, has never really been an actor that I find necessary to watch, let alone seek out purposefully. However with Clooney in the role of Bingham, he makes someone who may have been seen as cold and un-relatable as charming and almost endearing.

Bingham’s life of self-imposed ostracism is surmised brilliantly in his motivational speeches called “What’s in my Bag?” using his suitcase as a metaphor to justify his unattached existence by feeling that a life with relationships will only weigh you down. Yet this defiance of cultural norms would be nothing without challenge to obscure his view of the world, which is where Keener and Alex come in.

Admittedly I had never heard of Anna Kendrick or Vera Famiga prior to seeing this film, despite seeing Famiga in Source Code and Kendrick in Scott Pilgrim vs The World and ParaNorman however it is their performances that truly ground the film (pardon the pun).

up-in-the-air-004Kendirck as the inexperienced, yet ambitious graduate gives the film a viewing point for Bingham’s actions. Though at times she becomes slightly irritating due to her complete ineptitude at firing people, it is only briefly done to highlight how she is trying to best the veteran Bingham.

Aside from this, Keener actually serves as quite a standard character, trying to get Bingham to see the value of societal norms and that relationships and family are not necessarily things that tie you down and, while on her own she is not successful, it does provide good opportunity for Bingham and Keener to become fuller characters which on their own they may not have achieved.

Yet, while Keener is a good character and partially integral to the overall storyline, there are occasions that leave you feeling that they should focus more on Bingham’s relationship with Alex and of that of his estranged family. And on that note, let’s have a look at Alex.

up-in-the-air-1024This is where the film thrives in my book as, while Bingham and Keener’s relationship gives Bingham verbal acknowledgement of the need for relationships with other people, Alex is the subtle version, although it is blatantly obvious to the audience. To see their relationship progress is one that actually pulls on the heartstrings, with them checking their flight plans so that they can hook up again with what turns from casual sex into a more meaningful relationship.

Famiga plays the role beautifully and, while her role is sometimes a bit obvious, as well as the eventual outcome of her and Bingham’s relationship, she creates a more human side to both seemingly unfeeling people, even giving a rather good speech on how the young always go for perfection in relationship when those who are older, and more experienced, realise that a compromise is always necessary.

However what most caught me off-guard about this film was one of its smaller, yet overarching storylines, being that of Bingham’s younger sister’s wedding. Throughout the film Bingham is getting Keener to take pictures of a cardboard cut-out of his sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), and her fiancé Jim (Danny McBride) in various places since they cannot afford a honeymoon trip.

Up in the Air http://teaser-trailer.comYet on the day of the wedding, which Bingham turns up to despite being characteristically cold about it for most of the film, the fiancé has cold feet and Bingham is called upon by Kara (Amy Morton), Bingham’s older sister, to use his motivational skills to get Julie’s fiancé to commit, something which seems counterintuitive to Bingham’s philosophy.

Not to give what was said in the scene away, though some of it was in the trailer, the scene is actually rather touching in a refreshingly honest sought of way, with human connections being seen to be part and partial of a fuller life, whatever form they may be.

Jason Bateman also deserves a quick bit of praise as, despite his messy CV, with films like Horrible Bosses (and presumably Horrible Bosses 2), Identity Thief and The Switch to name a few distorting his acting capabilities, reuniting with director Jason Reitman must be something good for him as, although in a smaller role than in the indie success Juno was, Bateman as Bingham’s boss gives the film drive.

Bateman acts as the driving force for the film and, although his screen time is short, he uses it effectively giving the plot that extra push it needs to keep the audience invested.  Kudos Bateman, please do more like this.

One thing that really should have been mentioned by now is the actually firing Bingham and Keener do and that it provides a lot of comedy and drama to the film as a whole. Zach Galifianakis acts as Steve, an employee fired by Bingham and, although only on screen for minutes, his renditions of “How an Employee can react to Being Fired” are quite amusing. Tamala Jones also shows this in a blunter, colder fashion, showing audiences how some people really act to unemployment in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.

009UIA_J_K__Simmons_001Yet it is acting veteran J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Juno, and Portal 2) gives the film more time with firing employees than any other. Keener realises the reality which Bingham faces on a daily basis and the whole host of issues arising from it, as well as her lack of real world experience when her academic mind is swiftly denounced by Simmons’ visibly distraught character. Simmons gives the recently unemployed a voice in how unemployment will affect them in real terms.

In the end though, this film does push the “Live Life with Those you Care About” message pretty hard, it feels as if it flows naturally, rather than getting preachy about the subject. It allows Bingham to be his ostracised self while moving the plot along while slowly questioning Bingham’s lifestyle rather than bringing abrupt changes every fifteen minutes.

I must say that, while this film did not capture my attention at the time, I’m glad BBC iPlayer reminded me of it as it was most certainly worth the time to watch it. It’s witty, charming and keeps you invested in the characters without making them to feel like caricatures.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. If you like please follow me, as well as liking my Facebook and following me on Twitter to keep updated on more reviews and other articles I’ll be doing. Also, if you want to write as a guest blogger please leave email chronicchronicler@gmail.com. Thanks again for reading!

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What Do I Want?

Hello again. This is going to be a bit different from my usual stuff so I apologise in advance for disturbing the usual order of things. But first let’s get some things out of the way, as if to make a clean slate as it were.

Yes, I have been on holiday so I haven’t been able to write, but I had a very lovely time relaxing and getting knackered by walking up mountains. Yes, I was deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, as everyone is, but I shall not be making a tribute post to him as it is now too far gone and there is sufficient tributes to such a man covering the internet already which would leave my efforts to surmise his attributes to be paltry in comparison. And yes, I have some reviews in mind for the future so please stick around for those.

But moving on I must tell you something that has been preying on my mind of late and, for some reason, I find I must share with you all. It started in the pub I currently work at. I was working the bar when a lady, about early forties I guess, approached on of my colleagues wanting to order a meal. My colleague asked: “What would you like?” At which she furrowed her brow and stared at him and, as if the thought never occurred to her and said “What do I want?”

Initially, I found this quite amusing. I’d seen her come in. She’d pondered the menu for a while before coming to the till and to completely forget her order somehow made me smile at her folly and engage in a silent agreement with my colleague that she was a bit of a div.

But the thought clung on to me like jeans when walking in heavy rain. I couldn’t shake it and for a few hours failed in attempts to reason why. It wasn’t that funny and, if relayed to someone else afterwards, they’d probably give you a strange look as if to say “That was it?” But still the thought persisted.

Then I realised it, after leaving work and wandering home where my thought were not cluttered by orders for drinks, food and directions to the toilets. It was that singular thought “What do I want?”. She could have put it any other way, but chose that way. Now she may have not meant it the way my mind construed it, but it festered in my mind until it turned into something much different than the slightly embarrassing moment forgetting of one’s order.

That “what do I want” question made me realise that I, like that lady, do not know what I want either. That’s not to way that I want nothing, I want many things, as probably do many of you. For some of you it may be you want more money, or a new car, or to get that promotion or even to get that guy/girl to like you. It could be any number of things and perhaps a whole cluster of them.

We always seem to be surrounded by I want people. Sometimes they are clawing people who want something without any regard for how they get it, so long as it is soon. Other I want people work for what they want over long periods of time. Some people may just get what they want dropping into their laps but, unfortunately, that is the rarer kind that is seldom seen now.

But the true realisation of this almost rhetorical question is that although we will want much, we will inevitably never get all we want. Some may get closer than others but there is always that something else we shall aspire to. That new car, new job, new computer, new this, that and everything else. But in the end we never will get to that place of perfect want-lessness. Trying to get there is like trying to get to the horizon. Foolish.

But does that mean we should not want? My mum used to tell me when I was being a petulant little child that “I wants never gets”, especially if there were sweets or an expensive toy involved. I still find that statement hold true in some cases, but I also feel that wanting is only the first stage of getting.

We may never truly know what we want or whether it will make us happy, but at least it’s a start. Perhaps we will drop some things we want and pick up new wants along the way, perhaps even incorporating other peoples wants along with yours.

So here I go. I want to be a writer and, to an extent I am already fulfilling this ambition by writing this blog post. But I want to be more than this. I enjoy this, but my want wants me to do more. I may be a master procrastinator, but I want more. I know this sounds very vague and whatnot, but that’s how my want is at the moment, incoherent yet somehow precise. This want may recede and change, but at its core I feel it shall remain much the same as I assume it is for many of you.

There are other things I want but to divulge them would be to obscure this message. Thanks for taking the time to read this rambling post on wants and I hope you all get, or at least try, to get what you want as well. Legally at least.

P.S.: Normal programming will resume in the same lackadaisical fashion as ever.

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Guest Blogger: The Stuff

Well hello everyone. I hope you’ve all been enjoying my reviews as of late but today it’s time for a change. I shall be introducing Fallyn Aingeal of the popular blog Late Night Comic. Over on his blog Fallyn delves into films, games, anime, comics, books and more so please go and have a look at his site! From the looks of things Fallyn has given me something quite different from my usual stuff so I hope you all like the change. Well without further ado, I hand over to Fallyn.

The_Stuff_DVD_boxart

This movie is awesome!!!!! Okay that was enough of that, no in reality this movie is terrifying, and not in the sense that it’s a horror movie and it’s going to make you run for mommy, no it’s terrifying in the fact that someone thought this was a good idea in the first place enough to make it into an actual movie.

The opening alone sets up exactly how the rest of this movie is going to feel…a hobo standing around, picking up something that looks like shaving cream bubbling out of the ground and eating it…thinking it’s so incredibly good that he calls another one over to taste it, and both agreeing that it’s infinitely better than ice cream, which I find incredibly hard to believe on so many levels it’s not even funny.

Okay so we kind of have a set up in a sense…well more or less, moving on though and it’s a little later, the Stuff, as it’s also branded in the movie (creativity at its best folks) is now a world-wide sensation…or at least one across the US which, why not, it’s what we do right…cram whatever is hot down our gullets and keep in mind this was even in the 80s so we’ve been doing it for years…moving on again. Anyway, the Stuff is everywhere and here’s the hook, the more you eat it the more you want it and that’s what draws you in, to the point that the Stuff is all you want to eat, ever.

Now the meat of this movie is the fact that the big Ice Cream Mafia…might as well call them that since that’s the road this movie takes anyway, wants to know how the Stuff is made so they can copy…err…improve on it…sure, cause that’s how it works, so they hire a former FBI agent to do a little corporate espionage and find out. What does he find out you might be asking yourself…if not then you obviously were smarter than me and didn’t bother watching this movie in the first place, what he finds out is what we already know by this point that the Stuff brainwashes people into eating more and for reasons that are never entirely quite made clear.

imagesIn all of this there are less than a handful of people that know what the Stuff really is, and three of them are trying to stop it all, but let’s not drag all of this out any longer than it already is, the Stuff, when you actually see it on screen, looks like someone popped open a tanker full of shaving cream and it just started flowing around as it engulfed random people, or made them explode, or one of the many other ways this crap kills you.

I’m all for B-Movies, some of them are actually good, but holy hell, I felt like I not only lost an hour and a half of my life, but I quite possibly might have dropped an IQ point or two somewhere along the way. Should you watch it? That depends, are you a masochist? If so then by all means, watch it until your eyes falls out…which they quite possible will, otherwise…steer clear of The Stuff by any means necessary.

Thank you Fallyn for that look into the weird, very weird, world of B-movies. Don’t forget to go and look at Late Night Comic for more of his snappy reviews (God I sounded old when I said “snappy” didn’t I?) I hope you all enjoyed that and, if you want to write a Guest Blog for the Chronic Chronicler, please don’t hesitate to email me at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Why Are Dragons So Cute?

how_to_train_your_dragon_two_ver7So when the first How to Train Your Dragon trailers rolled across my TV screen I was, absurdly in retrospect, quite sceptical about the film. I thought it would be a film only for kids and would only add to the slew of bad and mediocre films DreamWorks were producing since Flushed Away, with Kung Fu Panda being the only anomaly at the time. But I was wrong. I’ll admit that. How to Train Your Dragon was a phenomenal success that put DreamWorks firmly back in contention with Disney and Pixar.

However with any film that is successful nowadays, especially if it’s in DreamWorks’ hands, How to Train Your Dragon is set for sequelisation and I was very, very worried about it. Who doesn’t worry about great movies getting terrible sequels? Especially with DreamWorks’ record, with the prime example being Shrek the Third.

But all those worries faded after seeing the first amazing trailer and one tweet from fellow blogger Thy Critic Man who said that the How to Train Your Dragon franchise would be the next Toy Story franchise. Wow, that is a huge accolade given to the How to Train Your Dragon movies, possibly the highest for all animated movies. That should be its own award category at the Oscars. But the question is, is it that good?

Simply answer: No. Nothing is as good as the Toy Story trilogy. But, considering how good it is, it’s not far off. So let’s stop pussy-footing about and let’s jump into the obligatory overview!

So its five years since the events of How to Train Your Dragon and all seems well in Berk. Vikings and dragons are living in harmony, with sheep now used in a dragon-riding sports event. Hiccup and Toothless however are broadening the Vikings map of the world, meeting with new peoples as they go. However Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrera), who appear to be going pretty steady, see something odd in the distance on one map-building exercise. Going towards it they find dragon trappers led by Eret (Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones fame) who is working for Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) to amass a dragon army.

Upon learning this, Hiccup and Astrid return to tell Stoick who orders the village to fortify itself and prepare for battle. Hiccup, believing he can change Drago’s mind, sets off to find him despite Stoick’s warnings otherwise. And so the begins the quest for dragons, Drago and a mysterious dragon rider.

Now I know most people would have commented on the fantastic animation, voice acting, storyline, etc., etc. But that’s not going to be the main thrust of this review. We all know that that stuff is awesome, or if you haven’t seen the film, have suspected that it would be awesome. And it is. This review is going to the smaller bits that I found the intriguing.

One of the best things about this film is probably one of the most obvious things you saw in this film. The characters aged. I know that about as obvious as saying the Earth is round but when you think about it, it really is something special.

how-to-train-your-dragon-image-how-to-train-your-dragon-36801795-800-430-how-to-train-your-dragon-2-a-review

Looking older, but still awesome

When you think about it, most animated films do not change their main characters’ no matter how many movies they are in. They either remain the same age eternally or retain their youthful complexion despite minor aging. How to Train Your Dragon 2 took a look at this generic formula and thought “To hell with this”. The main characters have grown up and that physical change made me sit up and take attention to this film.

While I’ll admit most of the adults look the same, there aren’t meant to change much because they have fully grown. But having young teens grow up into young adults? Well that may be truly revolutionary. Unless aging over the entire movie like The Lion King or The Incredibles, most characters will get to an age where they stop changing their physiology and, although the How to Train Your Dragon franchise only has two movies under its belt, it is challenging the norms in a way that felt fresh and innovative.

What was also impressive was the fact that Dean DeBlois was not afraid to take the limelight away from Hiccup from time to time. While Hiccup unquestionably remained the main character, time was given to show how the other characters had moved along since the first film. The growth of Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) are both vying for the attention of Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) while she is infatuated with certain traits of Eret, Stoick is trying to groom Hiccup to be chief of Berk, and Gobber is still there to deliver brilliant one-liners.

However this is also where I had a couple of niggles with the film. Astrid was an independent character with all her own strengths and weaknesses in the first film. She was clearly defined and wasn’t dependent on anyone. Now, although still much the same, she is much more reliant on Hiccup.

HTTYD2-ASTRID-CHARACTER-ONE-SHEET

Sorry, still a side character.

I know that Hiccup and Astrid are in a loving and caring relationship (and all the bile and venom within me clawed against me while I wrote that so be grateful for this) but Astrid was a cool, if antagonistic, character in the first film. In this film however, Astrid fumbles into generic girlfriend and, while she does have her strong moments, it’s more often than not to big up Hiccup rather than herself.

So if Dean DeBlois is reading this, please give Astrid more to do and reassert her as a more prominent character. I know you had to make room for the mysterious dragon rider… Ok, it’s Hiccup’s mum Valka (Cate Blanchett) but we all knew that from the trailers. But seriously, give Astrid a little bit more screen time. Oh and give Tuffnut some character too other than generic annoying twin brother.

Another thing that seemed a slight step backwards for the film was actually the villain. While Drago is a fine villain who is as about as hateable as a combination of Joseph Stalin, Joffrey Baratheon and Ricky Gervais, he falls into generic bad guy territory. The first film had the Vikings themselves as the antagonist, but it was a nuanced antagonism as you initially saw the dragons from the Vikings perspective. However Drago is just your generic bad guy with no redeeming qualities. He’s set up as a madman and fulfils that prophecy without much of a hint that he was different prior to his appearance in the film. A villain with more sides is a better villain, but a villain who is just evil for the sake of being evil was a bit of a cop out.

Finally, and treading very, very very finely on the spoiler line, one scene for me dragged just a little too long. It was that emotional scene. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the film, if you haven’t go and watch it now so you will understand. But so I won’t spoil I’ll just say this. They talk for too long. The scene was touching and expertly executed, but if it had been just a bit more compact I feel it would have been brilliant. Or, alternatively, they could have had it at the end of the film before the ending. That way they could have done a greater contrast between remembrance and vitality. I’ve probably said too much already so I’m going to move on now.

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Oh and there’s a flame sword. How have you not seen this film?!

Those criticisms withstanding, the film is brilliant. It’s imaginative, fun, funny, the characters are great, the relationships are wonderfully depicted, especially one song scene (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the film) and of course many overly cute dragons. If you haven’t seen it, go and see it now and most definitely buy it on DVD/Blu-Ray. It is definitely worth your money.

I apologise for this review being a day late but it’s better late than never I guess. Thanks for reading this though and, if you want to see more of my review, follow me here on WordPress, or on Facebook or Twitter. Also, if you want to write a guest blog for me, then send me an email at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thank you again for reading!

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Guest Blogger Page Unveiling

Well hello everyone, this is just a quick test to see whether this page works. Or rather, this category thing works. I’m still not brilliant at this technology lark but I hope this works well enough for it to be viable. Again, hope you enjoy my upcoming How to Train Your Dragon 2 review which should be up tomorrow.

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And Now the News

Hello once again from your Chronic Chronicler. I hope you are all doing well and that you are enjoying my reviews. I thought I’d just put this up to give you all a bit of notice of things that are coming up for the blog and see whether or not you’d like a voice in how this blog progresses.

Firstly, my next review will be about the phenomenally successful How to Train Your Dragon 2. I know pretty much everyone else has reviewed it, and in all probability my review will just echo their sentiments, but I think it’s worthy of a review and I hope you will enjoy it. The review will be out by the 31st at the latest so I hope you all keep a lookout for it.

As for the future I’ve got some films, games and books I’ve been meaning to do for a while so as soon as I can I’ll get those reviews done for your reading pleasure.

But now to other matters. I’m going on holiday so reviews will be in short supply for the beginning to the middle of August. But don’t worry, I’ll be thinking of ideas and jotting down ideas here and there for future reviews so do not worry.

But on the topic of reviews I am hereby announcing I am going to set up a Guest Blogger page. Due to my technological retardation, I’m still not sure how to do this but I’m sure I will find out somehow. If any of my readers know how to do this please tell me as I am hopelessly uninformed.

The Guest Blogger page can be for whatever you want to write about, so long as it is not too offensive or too obscene, but I really don’t need to tell all you responsible people that.

If you want to send something to me, then all you have to do is go into your town centre, slit the throat of a goat, roll around in its still warm blood and and chant to the Dark Lord Cthulhu, Editor in chief of the Chronic Chronicler. But if that’s too difficult, or illegal to do depending where you live,  then you can always send your article by email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com.

Thanks again for reading and I hope to see loads of contributors for my soon to be up Guest Blogger page. If you have any suggestions of what you would like the Chronic Chronicler to write then don’t hesitate to ask via the comments, Facebook, Twitter or email. Thanks again for reading!

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The Greatest Game Ever Played – In A Really Boring Sport

For any and all golf fanatics that read my reviews, I guess this review is for you. Why do I say this? Well, if you have not noticed, in Britain there was this thing called The Open Championship where lots of highly paid men got to thwack a ball around a course while people applaud for their ability to hit a tiny ball into a hole many yards away and a Northern Irishman won. I think you may be able to tell I’m not keen on the sport, or at least the watching of the sport in lieu of actually playing it.

517b589wJsLBut golf seems to capture the imagination of some so I might as well get down to the spirit of things, reach for the TV remote and turn over from the golf to a film… about golf. Well there’s no time like the present – to the obligatory overview!

Francis Ouimet (Matthew Knight) is a lowly caddy at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts becomes immensely interested in golf after watching an exhibition by British golfing legend Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). After years of working on the course (and becoming Shia LaBoeuf in the process) a Club member, Mr Hastings (Justin Ashforth) notices his talent and asks him to play with him, something which caddies are forbidden to do.

After impressing Mr Hastings, Ouimet is put forth to qualify for the U.S Amateur. However Ouimet’s father Arthur (Elias Koteas) is unimpressed and barters that he will pay the $50 dollar entrance fee on the condition that, should Ouimet lose, he must get a proper job. Ouimet accepts and fails by one stroke to qualify. He then follows his father’s instructions and gets a ‘real job’.

However Mr Hastings offers another chance to Ouimet, but this time to play in the U.S Open, with it being delayed a few months to allow Harry Vardon and Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus) to come and play. Although frowned upon by the golfing elite, Francis Ouimet joins the ranks of legends and takes them on at their own game.

a9405i0_Greatest-Game-250Now I know what you are thinking. I thought it too. A film with Shia LaBoeuf. That’s primed for criticism is it not? But in actuality I don’t think LaBoeuf does a bad job in this film. He’s serviceable, brings the character to life and doesn’t seem to out of place in the direction the film wants to take.

However that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ouimet could have been played by pretty much any other young actor and gotten as good a performance as LaBoeuf. It merely happens that LaBouef was “hot property” at the time so no wonder he was cast. There is nothing really negative to say about LaBouef in this film as, compared to his Transformers performances, he comes out quite well, but it does not detract from the fact that his role was not made his own.

greatestgame12One actor I would give recognition for making the part his own though would be Stephen Dillane. You may not know him by name, but many of you would certainly know him as Game of Thrones’ Stannis Baratheon. Dillane embodies the part brilliantly, letting you see him as not merely a golfing champion, but a man haunted (to an extent) by his past and angered by the classist nature of society. He is bold and memorable, with hints of charm washing through him, inavertedly almost making Vardon the film’s star.

But, saying that, I must give due credit to director Bill Paxton and writer Mark Frost for making the main characters not playing for national pride but rather for personal pride. Indeed, playing for national pride appears to be portrayed as a hindrance to characters and even to embody a certain form of villainy within several characters.

That point of nationalistic pride leads on nicely to one other point I found irritating about this film. It portrayed nearly all the British, Vardon and Ray aside, as chauvinistic golfer who needs to teach the ex-colonies a damn lesson about who is the superior nation really is. I was half expecting them all to be wearing top hats, have those villainously long moustaches that could twirl between their forefinger and thumb of their left, while holding a jewel-encrusted skull in their right hand and looking at a globe with America in their view whilst laughing maniacally. There is also a butler holding a tray of brandy also chuckling with the British “patriot”. Oh, and there is a tiger sleeping on a bearskin rug with its natural orange and black stripes replace by the Union Flag. I know sport is still quite nationalistic today as it probably was then and the British are not alone in their nationalistic fervour (see John McDermott) but it is so nationalistic it almost wants to make you want to burn any and all references to national pride that you own.

thegreatestgameeverplayed0cjWhat I do like is when they go about class issues and how the world, at the time of 1913, is still beset by class division. The film’s main point appears to be, despite the fervent nationalism thrown around which may or may not been as prevalent at the time than the film suggests, that it is not where you are born into that defines you, rather, it is who you are that makes you into the great person you may or may not become. Vardon and Ouimet hammer this point home quite thoroughly, perhaps even a little brutally, throughout the film. However the message is a poignant one which fills you with a sense that it is almost you “sticking it to the man”.

That’s all fine and dandy. It shows the lower class man show that he can play against the gentlemen and beat them at their own game. However when the film tries to divert itself from that it tends to weaken substantially, showing glimpses of LaBoeuf’s acting future. The main perpetrator of this is Peyton List as LaBouef’s love interest Sarah Wallis. I know this was her first film after being in American soap opera As the World Turns, but her role is completely shoehorned in.

greatest-game-ever-played_2The only thing Wallis does of any significance is give Ouimet’s caddy Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), a character who, while may be accurate, is annoyingly chipper, a good luck charm to give to Ouimet when he inevitably is having a crisis of confidence. Aside from that, she does nothing much apart from stand around in pretty dresses flirting with Ouimet and being the girl of the film that isn’t Ouimet’s mother, who also has no purpose in the film except for looking worried and supporting Ouimet’s golfing dreams.

Finally, and I know this may be a bit of a niggle for me and a perfectly justifiable use of special effects, but this film spends too long on making golf look more dramatic than it really is. The visualisation of the hole, the following the ball shot, the clearing of all distraction so it looks like only the golfer and the hole exist, and so on. I grant you there are good once or twice, but they saturate this film so much that about halfway through the golfing part of this film, it really bores you. It is as if the director wanted every possible way to make golf interesting used and didn’t believe that too much might be a bad thing.

But despite my many criticisms of the film, it is still a somewhat enjoyable to watch. It moves at a steady pace, makes you invested in most, though not all, of the characters and makes golf appear to be a more interesting sport than it actually is for the film’s duration, so to that extent it can be considered a success. While not as engaging as my other, and only, sport film I reviewed (being Wimbledon), it still does enough to make golf seem an interesting prospect, before you realise what a bore it actual is.

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