This was one of those very rare occurrences when I liked the movie much better than the book. Rowling's books make great movies, because a ruthless screenwriter can cut out all the stuff that a good editor should have but didn't, and after all, the best part of Rowling's books is the plotting. Interestingly, some of the young actors are beginning to mature and add nuances to the characters that are lacking in the books. Rupert Grint is learning to do more than just mug and grimace, and Daniel Radcliffe made me like Harry about ten times more than I did in what is arguably the the weakest book in the series. I really liked the little girl who played Luna. Only Emma Watson does not seem to have matured along with her character, though, to be fair, she didn't have much to do here. And as an aside - why do so many of the children have Irish accents? I found the movie involving, exciting and ultimately even moving, and it made me look forward to the next one.
Gone Baby Gone
There is a lot to admire in this movie. I have to congratulate Ben Affleck on his directing job - I think he has a great future behind the camera, especially as he has screenwriting to his credit as well. Casey Affleck was fabulous. I don't think I've seen him in anything else, so I wasn't surprised by him, but I was impressed, because he was intense, totally believable and, I think, without his performance, the movie would not have been as effective as it was. Ed Harris is always wonderful, and Morgan Freeman is one of my favourite actors, though he wasn't given much to work with here. Amy Ryan was completely convincing. What was not particularly convincing was the turgid plot, which is not the fault of the players or the directing (though as Ben Affleck also has credit on the screenplay, it IS partly his fault). To be fair, I think Ben Affleck probably did the best he could with the material, given that it was an adaptation of a novel, because the turgidity is founded on numerous far too complicated plot twists that give the movie about three false endings and make it about half an hour too long. Overall, though, it was thought-provoking and mostly quite involving viewing.
What was THAT about? This is an example of a movie where directorial style and superb acting gives it the impression of tremendous weight, but afterwards you are left puzzled about what it was supposed to mean, if anything. Russian gangs are nasty? Don't take your clothes off in a steam bath if you belong to a Russian gang? I found myself wanting more ... or less. Less resolution at the end, perhaps, (in one sense - you'll know if you've seen the movie), or more, in another sense. It was quite clear whom we were meant to be rooting for, and this is not destabilized at all. Maybe I'm a product of the seventies, or maybe I've seen too many films noire, but I wanted more complication. Not as much as in Gone Baby Gone, but some. I can't say any more without giving away the one complication that there is, but I would have liked that element explored more, especially when Viggo Mortensen has more than the goods to convey whatever subtleties the plot might require of him. He was astonishing, and not just because of that famous nude fight scene.
By the way, I would like a scene like that in my next Chinese martial arts movie, please. Gorgeous, androgynous heroes, drifting silk ... and a nude fight scene. Heaven.