THE MIGHTY BEAN

Previews at the NFT on Saturday, 28 February 2009

My friend Mooms and I went to the previews of the Triology in London and Mooms wrote these wonderful reviews. I totally share her opinion on all three!



Previews at the NFT on Saturday, 28 February 2009

1974

Govi and I both felt that the first film was the strongest of the three and not just because Sean Bean featured in it so prominently.

The Director had chosen to shoot it on Super 16 film in order to achieve the grainy, 1970's look and it worked brilliantly. The care which had been taken with the wardrobe, cars and set dressing, to give period authenticity was really impressive to someone who remembers the time very well. I don't know why everybody had hideous brown wallpaper and furnishings in those days, but I clearly remember that they did and it is all lovingly re-created!

The book has tremendous, angry momentum and this is transferred successfully to the film, which moves quickly and carries you along with it. We both agree that the casting and ensemble playing is perfect. There really is not one bad performance and everything is gritty and realistic.

Young Eddie Dunford starts off as a cocky, ambitious, selfish and insensitive young journalist, only concerned with getting a scoop, whose motto is 'If it bleeds, it leads'. There is a telling exchange near the beginning with his editor, when he is enthusiastically promoting his theory that the abductions of three little girls are linked, so that there may be a serial child killer loose. The editor says, "Let's hope so, eh?" and he says, "Yeah" to which the editor points out that he was being sarcastic.

Andrew Garfield is excellent as Eddie, whose views begin to change, when he meets the vulnerable Paula Garland, brilliantly played by Rebecca Hall, the mother of one of the missing children and begins a relationship with her. Paula appears to be in the thrall of John Dawson, a local property developer.

Sean Bean is, as has been said by The Guardian, superb in the role of John Dawson. He really becomes this powerful and dangerous character, making proposals of mutually beneficial deals, accompanied by thinly veiled threats, playing the part of the successful local businessman and entertaining lavishly in his opulent house. He tries to get the young journalist on his side, but when Eddie refuses the offer of a scoop, which will compromise a local councillor standing in Dawson's way, he drops his genial pose and turns violent and frightening in a moment.

Having read the books, which have no humour at all in them, we were surprised that the writer had managed to add dark humour to the grim subject matter and Sean gets most of the funny lines, which he delivers with consummate skill. His description of a shopping mall is priceless and he has a great line, which made the audience laugh loudest, immediately before the dramatic denouement.

There are a couple of nude sex scenes involving Eddie, but not Sean's character, who keeps his seventies suits and bri-nylon polo-necks firmly on.

For people sensitive to swearing on TV, the language used by these characters is realistically foul and the swearing is pretty much continuous and relentless. I do not think it is gratuitous, however, as these are frankly not very nice people and this is how they would talk.

There is brutality and violence in the film, as Eddie is beaten up a couple of times in the course of his investigations by the same two policemen, but the really harrowing torture scenes in the 'belly' of the police station are near the end of the film. They are very realistic, nasty and shocking, especially because we have got to know the character and become invested in him. They are certainly difficult to watch, so brace yourselves.

This is, challenging scenes aside, a very powerful and beautifully produced and acted piece of drama, which we would recommend. We think that Channel 4 can be justifiably proud of this production.

Mooms, 2 March 2009

 

1980

This second film in the Red Riding Trilogy is completely different in pace and shot expensively in 35 mm and wide screen format, an example of how high the production values are for these films. As the Director, James Marsh explained in the Q & A after the films, the wide screen enabled him to film dialogue scenes involving several people and manipulate the power dynamics more effectively.

The main character, Peter Hunter is an outsider in West Yorkshire and the format enabled the Director to crowd him out in later scenes, diminishing him and making him appear vulnerable. Much of the action takes place at night and also benefits from being shot in this way.


This film has the Yorkshire Ripper murders as the background and includes actual news footage from the time. We are aware that some people have been concerned that using this subject matter may be offensive to relatives of the victims, but the names and photographs of victims seen and mentioned are fictionalized and even the Ripper, who is caught and interviewed in this film, is not named. The significance of the background is that one of the murders attributed to the Ripper does not fit in with the others and is connected to the murky goings on and police corruption in the first film.

The central character of the film, Peter Hunter, is the Assistant Chief Constable of Manchester Police and pretty much the only decent and honest policeman portrayed in the trilogy. He is given the role of leading a Home Office enquiry into the West Yorkshire Police's investigation of the Ripper murders, but is already unpopular there, because he investigated them previously after the incident at the Karachi Club, which ended the first film.

Hunter is played by Paddy Considine, who has the right air of sadness about him, because Hunter loves his wife, but his marriage has been blighted by his wife's history of miscarriages and their failure to have a baby. Even this apparently upright character is flawed, however, because it turns out that he has had a relationship with a colleague, Helen Marshall, one of two officers he has chosen to help him with the enquiry, although he is consumed by guilt and regret afterwards.

This film is permeated by crude and sexist comments made by the so-called liaison officer, Bob Craven, who we met in the first film and is a truly nasty and vicious character, determined to obstruct the enquiry. Helen Marshall, convincingly played by Maxine Peake has to endure these comments and the contemptuous attitude to women of her fellow officers and it is noticeable that her boss, Hunter, does not intervene to stop this unprofessional and unpleasant behaviour.

It struck me that one of the themes the theme of this film could be seen to be misogyny, as the Ripper murders are an example of this hatred and loathing of women taken to the ultimate, horrible conclusion

Ironically, Hunter, the only honest policeman, finds himself suspended and accused of impropriety and even has his house burnt down on Christmas Day, but with the assistance of the rent boy, BJ, another character we met briefly in the first story, he pieces together more of the puzzle.

The bad language and verbal aggression continue in this film, but there is less physical violence. There is, however a particularly gruesome and nasty murder of an ex-policeman and his young daughter, which is recorded in a sinister echo of the hoax Ripper tapes, which have diverted the police, and the victim is found with the tape in his mouth.

The ending is as shocking as that in the first film and the darkness continues, but again, the ensemble playing is flawless.

Mooms, 2 March 2009

 


1983

The third and final film in the trilogy is shot in Anamorphic widescreen, using new Red Camera technology which gives it a very cinematic feel. It looks wonderful land like the other films is beautifully written, cast and acted.

This was our second favourite of the three films and both Mark Addy as John Piggot, an overweight and slobbish solicitor, the son of a policeman and unlikely hero and David Morrissey as Maurice Jobson, one of the corrupt policemen, who has appeared in all the films and who has an increasingly troubling guilty conscience, are excellent.

Also superb is Daniel Mays, as Michael Myshkin, a child-like man with learning disabilities, who has been persuaded to plead guilty to the child murder in the first film, but is innocent.  Now another child has gone missing and when John Piggot takes his mother’s ashes back to her house in his old neighbourhood, Michael’s mother asks him to help her son with an appeal.He goes to visit Michael and although he realizes that there has been a miscarriage of justice, he does not at first see how he can appeal, because Michael made a confession of his guilt and at first John is preparing to take his usual easy way out. Michael, however, insists that the 'wolf' did the murder, but cannot identify the person further.



At the beginning of the film, we have been shown a flashback to a private meeting upstairs at the wedding reception of evil Bill Molloys's daughter, in which the police and John Dawson, the property developer, drink to their business arrangement and the full extent of the corruption and cover-ups is revealed.

Maurice has been party to this arrangement, but has become increasingly distressed and appalled by where it has led. Now the police pick up Leonard Cole, the young man who discovered the body of the child murdered earlier and another innocent victim is subjected to the appalling brutality of the 'belly' beneath the police station. This time, even Maurice can no longer stomach the treatment being meted out to the suspect and has to leave the room. This is another superb performance by a young actor, Gerard Kearns and another difficult scene to watch.

John Piggot is asked to help Leonard by his mother, an old neighbour, who lives with the shadowy and mysterious clergyman, Martin Laws, another character, who has appeared throughout and whose role is ambiguous and murky. Before he can get to see Leonard, he is told that he has hanged himself in custody and now John knows that there are very dark and dirty dealings going on.

When he returns to see Michael, who is now refusing food and in the prison hospital, he learns to his horror, that his own father was a friend of the 'wolf' and recalls his father's suicide.

As John starts to piece things together, Maurice Jobson, disturbed by the visions of the clairvoyant, Mandy Wymer, who tells him that the disappearances of all the girls are related and that the missing girl is asking for help, recalls how previous investigations on the murder of Clare Kemplay had led to Martin Laws, but he had been given an alibi by John Dawson, the property developer. Maurice is now seeking redemption by trying to save the latest girl to go missing, before she can be killed.

Meanwhile, the rent boy, BJ, who has been a presence in the other films, gets out of prison and revisits his own childhood haunts and terrifying memories, with revenge in mind.

These three converge on the mining village of Fitzwilliam and the puzzle is finally completed.



Taken singly or all together, these films are a tour de force and make powerful, exciting and thought-provoking viewing. They also make the viewer work, because some things are implicit, rather than explicit and you have to draw your own conclusions about them, rather than having the answers neatly packaged and presented on a plate.

Mooms, 2 March, 2009

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