Film Review: The Numbers Station

The Numbers Station
The Numbers Station has had such low visibility, I’m surprised it got made at all! Having to buy the DVD off Amazon wasn’t a good sign but undeterred I watched it with an open mind.

I found that it was bit like a low budget spy thriller. A James Bond film without the pizzazz, music or glamour. The thing that does set this apart is the dynamics between the two leads John Cusack and Malin Akerman.

John Cusack plays CIA black ops agent Emerson Kent. After a job goes wrong, he must prove his worth and is sent to guard a lady named Katherine (Akerman). He must protect her at all costs. The CIA use a numbers station to send and receive encrypted messages. But the station is already under attack and saving Katherine may not be possible!

Now this drama wasn’t so much by the book, it WAS the book. Gunshots, awful bosses, exploding cars and mindless violence were executed matter of factly. Katherine’s colleagues were attacked before she arrived and you saw their fate through flashbacks when she played the audio tapes.

This was where the film lost a lot of credibility. Would the CIA really employ three people to look after such a covert station? All of them afraid to use guns and any of the defences? Plus the old – ‘I’ll open the door to see what’s going on!’

The villains were cardboard, a big bad boss with huge bodyguards ready to die for him. So much time was spent at the bunker – I was glad when it finally moved along. Perhaps this was a budget constraint? But the chemistry between the leads made the time passable.

Cusack played the troubled agent who has a conscience well and you could see him struggling with some of the decisions he had to make. The dreams where he shoots Katherine was a little bizarre and frankly unnecessary so I’m assuming this was a plot filler? It could’ve been a shock tactic but it just confused things for me.

One minute he’s now a world class doctor and able to operate on her then he’s dreaming of shooting her???

Kent’s boss is a little too trigger happy and there’s no time spent in exploring why he was so happy to have everyone die and humans nothing more than loose ends to tidy up. There was a good story here and it was missed. What would make someone so cold?

Another problem was the darn bunker door! For a secret bunker, the front door was like a revolving door. In, out, in, out. All the cast appeared to be in nearly every part – upstairs, downstairs. Injured people able to get to the basement and shoot. There was a lot of weird action going on.

But the ending was good and frankly I’ve seen worse movies recently. I think a rework of the script is in order, a touch of glamour and humour and that might propel this movie higher and get accepted by bigger cinemas.

I’m giving 7/10, a satisfactory outing but hardly Oscar material.

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Trailer reproduced from eonebenelux

DVD Review: Into The White

Into The White
Into the White stars Rupert Grint. He was the only face I recognised. I do try and not judge a film on an unknown cast, it’s hard to put on hold my feelings of ‘uh-oh’. I should’ve have listened. This for me wasn’t so much a film, but a reconstruction on how fighter pilots survived an air crash.

Set in World War II, the basic plot of British and German pilots engaged in battle started out okay. Battle scenes were acceptable but lacking in originality. Where it went downhill was when both sides had to share a cabin to survive the oncoming cold weather.

It reminded me a bit like a Ray Mears programme but without the humour. The cast didn’t gel and no one had the ‘X Factor‘, which might brighten such limiting space setting. The minute you restrict the story there’s only two roads to go down; that was fabulous or I’m a film critic – get me out of here!

Due to this, the groups getting along seemed very unlikely. The other actors were like watered down cola. Making a film work and entertaining isn’t like painting by numbers. Spend most of your budget on one decent name, have them do this and that, let’s have this story and hey presto! Movie magic!

Sadly, it takes more than this. The vision for this movie got lost as sure as the plane went down! I only hope Rupert Grint isn’t going have lots of low budget British/Europe film offers. He does deserve better, perhaps that’s why he was subdued for me in this. I can only hope he wasn’t forced?

Based on a real event, this should have been a belter. Mismanaged from start to finish means this dull story would be better released in schools to educate the young as opposed to entertaining the masses. Movies do need a bit of ‘oomph’ to make it fun or exciting.

I love making model spaceships, but I wouldn’t want to watch a film about how the parts are made! As in an actual step by step guide.

There isn’t else much I can say about this, as for my customary mark, I can only give this 3/10.

Hopefully the next British film being made, might remember that audiences want to have a little zing to their movie.

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Trailer reproduced from YouTube / IntoTheWhiteMovie

DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Scarlet Street

During the late 1930s, German director Fritz Lang fled Germany to escape the impending Nazi rule, and arrived in Hollywood. He brought with him the unique German expressionist style, best illustrated in Lang’s early works such as Metropolis and M.

Scarlett Street was one of Fritz Lang’s early film noirs, and has all the originality and rough edges you expect from a filmmaker trying to settle down in his new surroundings. Edward G. Robinson plays Chris Cross (don’t worry, even he knows his name is funny), a board banker and amateur artist celebrating 25 years of service. On his way home from a dinner celebration in his honour, he sees the beautiful Kitty Marsh (Joan Bennett) being attacked on the street. Chris intervenes and saves Kitty, and the two become very close friends, only Chris is unaware that the man attacking Kitty was Johnny (Dan Duryea), her thuggish boyfriend, and the pair is attempting to con him out of his money.

I should warn that this is a special film in the history of American cinema, and for that reason spoilers are unavoidable. So if you don’t want to know too much about the film’s plot, now is the time to look away…

"They'll be masterpieces": Robinson painting Bennett's toenails

Still there? Great. Scarlett Street was the first of its kind – it was the very first film Hollywood film where the criminal is not punished for their crime at the conclusion. As you would expect this was considered rather controversial, to such an extent that the New York State Censor Board and the Motion Picture Commission in Milwaukee banned the film on the grounds that it was immoral and “sacrilegious”.

Indeed the incredibly dark nature of the film’s final act can still pack quite a punch to this day. The sense of underlining bleakness though has always been a characteristic of Fritz Lang’s work, and you combine that with his expressionistic visual style and we are presented with a brooding and dystopian world, where the aforementioned Joan Bennett is the only thing that can light up the screen.

This has to be one of the best performances by Joan Bennett in her career. As the feisty Kitty Marsh she became one of the most iconic of femme fatale characters. We’re given plenty of reasons to dislike her, namely faking the most sincere emotion of love to trick and old and lonely man out of his money. We also can’t help but fall in love with her though, and think of her as an innocent catalyst caught up in a bad relationship that leaves her with no choice but to agree to her boyfriend Johnny’s demands. Her husky growling voice and general body language is also very appealing, but that could be male bias on my part.

Edward G. Robinson’s Chris Cross is a man you can’t help but pity from the start. A lonely man trapped inside an unsatisfied marriage, thinking he’s found love once again in the young Kitty Marsh while all the time he’s being used. When Chris finds out what Kitty has been doing during the final act, Fritz Lang dares to go where Hollywood cinema at the time wouldn’t dare go. It was upon its release a real game changer, and a film that signalled the glory years for film noir.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / DigiComTV