Our Greatest Living Film Critic, XII

November, 2019

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Watched The Hunt for Red October (1990), a Tom Clancy thriller directed by John Mctiernan, which is why it feels like Die Hard (1988). Sean Connery is a Russian submarine captain betting the fate of his crew and risking WWIII in order to defect. Alec Baldwin plays sultry pain in the neck Jack Ryan. This may be Connery’s best role. Shares a surprising amount with Ice Station Zebra: a race to acquire doomsday military technology, a saboteur trying to destroy their own sub, and a climax forced by the unexpected arrival of the Russian navy. Overall, this movie is a treat for fans of conning towers. It doesn’t make sense why Ramius sends a note explaining what he’s doing beforehand, but without that note there is no plot. I felt a sense of sadness when Sam Neal started talking about is plans for the future, because that means he is going to die. I give it 3.75 recreational vehicles out of a possible 5 recreational vehicles.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Rewatched The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), an Anthony Minghella film in which Matt Damon kills Jude Law, then Philip Seymour Hoffman. In the original book, Tom Ripley is a con man from the start, and going to Europe after Dickie Greenleaf was always part of a grift. I prefer Minghella’s version, in which love, wealth, and identity are entwined for Ripley so you can’t be sure whether he kills Dickie because he doesn’t want to go back to being poor, or because his romantic affection wasn’t returned, or because he’s a parasite taking over his host. Gorgeous photography, great score, terrible 90s title sequence. I would say scrub it out, but you can’t because it’s superimposed over the first few shots. There was an adaptation of this book filmed in 1960, but there are also two sequels to this movie filmed in the early 2000s, one starring John Malkovich as the title character, and one starring Barry Pepper. Believe it or not, seeing this movie is reputedly what inspired Tommy Wiseau to make The Room (2003). I give it 3.5 busts of Hadrian out of a possible 5 busts of Hadrian.

Plein Soleil (1960)

Watched Plein Soleil (1960), an adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. As opposed to the book, and Minghella’s adaptation of it, there is no homosexual subplot, and Ripley gets caught in the end. He is basically a con man who gets in over his head, and almost lies his way out of it. This was Alain Delon’s first major role, and he’s good. The female lead chews with her mouth open. The guy who plays Philip Seymour Hoffman is pretty bad. This version adds a lot of French-style slapstick bits, which were out of place, and some montages I didn’t need. It’s nice to see authentic, beautiful color footage of Italy in the late 50s. The 1999 adaptation is clearly superior in just about every way, yet its not rated as highly — not sure why. I give it 3 rubber hands out of a possible 5 rubber hands.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

Watched Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019), Quentin Tarantino’s rambling, revisionist fable about 1969. Leonardo DiCaprio is an aging action star trying to stay relevant, and Brad Pitt is his stunt double: an aimless, superheroic coolguy who can’t stay out of trouble. His character is established when he loses his job by kicking Bruce Lee’s ass. This movie has an astonishing number of cameos. I think it’s my favorite Tarantino movie. It’s dense with great moments, dialog, and things to look at, which is what I want out of his movies, and it’s not as bewilderingly eccentric as the last few have been. I know a lot has been said about him rewriting history in Inglourious Basterds (2009), and he does it in this movie: has there been a satisfactory explanation for what he’s trying to accomplish? The same guy who played Manson in Mindhunter plays him in this movie. I give it 4.25 donuts out of a possible 5 donuts.