Danny: I think the challenge for Steven Spielberg was to not make a 70 million dollar museum exhibit and I don't think he has. It’s a little bit polite, a little bit respectable - there are a lot of well-loved actors in historically authentic facial hair. But it’s absorbing and it’s not quite the movie that people expect it to be. It's a much smaller movie than people might be expecting; most of the action takes place around drawing room tables. It’s about the dirty work of politics and I think it’s a sturdy film about politics and politicians. You don’t feel like you’re going to be grabbed by the shoulders and led into the gift shop afterwards.
Spielberg is a great filmmaker but he’s got a career long schmaltz problem but here he has it under control. I think if I was going to be picky, I would mention the John Williams score -I wish it could be turned down or surgically removed because if Spielberg is showing you a battlefield of dead bodies you don't need a mournful orchestra to remind you to feel sad. It’s a very well made film.
In terms of Daniel Day Lewis I think we almost risk taking him for granted,because what he does here is phenomenal really. He disappears inside the character. If you look at Meryl Streep in the Iron Lady - a comparable role - it’s a great performance but you’re almost aware that there’s a great performance going on the whole time. Here, you forget there’s any kind of performance because Daniel Day Lewis isn’t even there after a while. It’s so good its unnerving, it’s like seeing an old photograph come to life and I honestly don't think that there’s another actor alive who could do what he does here.
Claudia: It’s Daniel Day Lewis, it’s about a hero who Steven Spielberg himself says he was obsessed by from the age of four. It’s Spielberg, it’s John Williams. It's going to be rousing with moments where they want you to stand up, but it’s not like that. I felt like everybody underplayed. It is three hours of men talking but I loved it - I could watch another three hours. It’s a less pithy The West Wing – it’s about politics and I found it deeply interesting. I liked the fact that it wasn’t sentimental. Daniel Day Lewis is absolutely brilliant and it’s worth mentioning Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
Zero Dark Thirty
Danny: Zero Dark Thirty’s been so smothered in controversy that you feel like you have to give it two reviews – you have to review the film and then review the controversy. As cinema, I think this is staggering. There’s a lot going on here that is knocking on for flawless. You’ve got a thriller where everybody going in knows the ending, and yet you’re gripped and transfixed. It’s a movie that takes you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let go. The last thirty or forty minutes are a masterclass of an action movie. It doesn’t put a shot wrong, and we’re talking about this at a time where TV is supposed to have overtaken movies and we’re all supposed to sit at home watching our box sets instead of going to the cinema. I think this film is a reminder of what cinema can be and there are programmes out there with similar subject matter. It makes Homeland look like Hollyoaks.
Jessica Chastain is fantastic and it’s interesting talking about her in the same week as Daniel Day Lewis. Daniel Day Lewis is playing a character that in a sense we know too much about, making a believable human out of this great historical figure. Jessica Chastain has to do the opposite, she has to take a character with no back story and make that believable.
About the controversy - this is a cold and troubling film about cold and troubling events. Is it pro-torture? I think people are going to have to go to the cinema and make their own minds up. I think you have to ask does it show torture working? And I don't think it does – it’s a portrait of a botch job, the CIA took ten years to track one man down and this is a film that doesn’t shy away from the fact that there was a lot of incompetence. Torture actually didn't deliver results and it ruined America’s reputation in the process and I think you need to ask, are these people even heroes? As well as a great thriller and a great action movie, it's a great revenge story and like all revenge stories – The Searchers, Straw Dogs, Dead Man’s Shoes, by the end of it you’re feeling uneasy and queasy and uncertain, and you don't know what taking revenge has actually taken out of the people responsible. What I do have a problem with is calling it journalism. It isn't journalism, but it’s a great movie.
Claudia: It’s brilliant. It’s a long film but still when it finished I definitely wanted more. What I love is, it trips you up all the time so –just as in the Hurt Locker, just when you think you know what’s going to happen - what route it will go down, that there might be a romance -every single time it pulls you up. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal.
The Last Stand
Danny: Well they’re selling this as the Arnie comeback movie but I think in the same way that a lot of shoppers will be going into supermarkets and checking very carefully the contents of their burgers this week, people should know there are limited quantities of Schwarzenegger in this movie. I don't know whether that’s because he’s at a certain age, where maybe the action stuff isn't quite so doable anymore, or whether he just has better things to do. This is the kind of movie where the golf clubs are always there, just out of shot. He does go missing for quite long periods of time and so it leaves the movie with space to fill. It tries to do that by bringing in Johnny Knoxville and it turning into Jackass and it even has a go at becoming yet another The Fast and The Furious because the Pablo Escobar style international drug lord who Arnie is up against, also happens to be a champion racing driving who has been competing in South America under an assumed name. Forrest Whittaker had the job of explaining that in the film, and I don't know if I’ve ever felt quite so sorry for an actor. Also, why does a small two horse town in Arizona have a 65 year old huge Austrian for it’s Sheriff?
Claudia: Often you don't realise you missed something until it’s back. One word: moussaka. When was the last time you had it? Give it a go and you’ll think where have you been all my life? Arnie, welcome. He is the colour of teak – I can only dream of being that colour. He can't move anymore, nothing makes sense – but it is also about forty minutes long.
- Series Producer
- Jayne Stanger
- Interviewed Guest
- Steven Spielberg
- Claudia Winkleman
- Danny Leigh
- Catherine Bray
- Executive Producer
- Basil Comely