So maybe I watched this one too soon after seeing the recent Brian De Palma documentary De Palma (2015) after watching a run of De Palma movies. Maybe I’m too big a fan of the 90’s films where Micheal Douglas’ manhood (mental and physical) and some shlocky plotting act as a gateway for a really interesting discussion about gender roles and machismo, or any one of a number of filmmakers who used genre to make us think and talk.
The Girl on the Train (2016), whilst being a decent film is perhaps a little too ‘decent’ for it’s own good. Despite a cast that’s game there isn’t enough fun or provocation within the film to get it over the hill of the final act revelations. Recent thrillers like Side Effects (2013) and Gone Girl (2014) knew that they were indecent and just went for it as the directors had the skill to play with the form. The Girl on the Train seems a bit preoccupied with ‘quality’ to really play any games… which is a real pity as there is so much fun to be had with the way that ‘story’ and viewing are placed front and centre.
It should have been wittier and it’s very telling that the only conversations I’ve had about the film concern it’s structure.
As summer action movies go the 5th instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise is a fun couple of hours in the cinema. From the spectacular, vertiginous opening set-piece, which almost equals the Burj Khalifa climb from the previous film, to a finale which pays of some well placed character beats, the film hits all the notes that you would expect from Cruise’s ongoing answer to Bond. Like the rest of the series it’s also a fully formed whole with new villains and the actors effectively playing themselves (if you’ve seen Simon Pegg before then you know Benji and don’t need to catch up on the other movies etc) with some well placed humour at their expense (Cruise’s height is well used).
Its also all pretty much replaceable and nothing really seems intrinsic to the film. Many of the stunts could easily be swapped out with something from the previous films… apart from the first movie because that was something special and during a magnificent Opera based sequence, meticulously set up and executed, it’s De Palma’s daring flourish and skewered reality that’s missing.
But I’m moaning about something being great fun rather than spectacular.
The film starts and we are looking over the shoulder of a man watching a screen. On that screen, in grainy black and white, are two men. A women lies dead on the bed. Some sordid business has happened in that room and Brian De Palma is once again reworking the memory of using surveillance to catch his father having an affair. This is Mission: Impossible, the family movie. Dressed to Kill, made 16 years earlier and not something to watch with your kids, also sees this obsession being worked through. Both are fabulous fun.
What I like about De Palma is that he clearly gives very few shits. His films are his and are pulpy, kinetic, comic book affairs with a wild streak of sleaze, violence and plenty of peeping. They are, in their own discordant, unsocial, in-spite of themselves way, a real pleasure because they are irrepressibly and undoubtedly ‘movies’.
Sitting somewhere between Carrie and Scanners, The Fury is equally captivating and distracting. Brian De Palma delivers staggering set pieces (a slow motion escape and a rear projection utilising ‘vision’ really stand out) and his trademark 70’s/80’s callousness is on full show but the untamed ideas just need herding in the right direction. It might ultimately be a film that doesn’t quite add up but The Fury really needs to be seen because the layers are all there and so are Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes.