Tag Archives: Rhys Ifans

Two for One

The King’s Man

by Cat McAlpine

When Orlando Oxford’s (Ralph Fiennes) wife dies in front of him and his young son Conrad, his life is irrevocably changed. No longer is he a brave action taker. His life revolves around protecting his young son and respecting his wife’s dying wish. Naturally, this leaves an older Conrad (Harris Dickinson) desperate to prove himself as a man and meet danger at the front lines of WWI.

That’s the first five or so minutes of The King’s Man.

Director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn returns for his third entry in the franchise with something darker and sillier, plagued with tonal whiplash.

What made his first two Kingsman films so successful was their absurd violence, over-the-top villains, and classic spy premise. This prequel goes without those key elements for almost an hour. Instead, we get a tense father-son drama about how war calls to all young men.

The narrative of the first half of the film is punctuated with plot, plot, and more plot to explain the growing tensions leading to the world’s most gruesome war.

When the Oxfords decide their only hope is to assassinate Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), I laughed out loud. It’s the same absurdity that made the rest of the series so enjoyable, but the ensuing hijinks were at odds with the movie I’d been watching.

Most odd of all, The King’s Man’s two most disparate scenes are its best.

One features Ifans — fantastic as Rasputin, both horrifying and hilarious and perfectly suited to the series. In stark contrast is a night-time knife fight in no man’s land. Conrad’s experience at the war front is heart-wrenching and filled with equal parts hope and horror. Then Vaughn rips us right back into plot, plot, and more plot. Emotional arcs are completed with single, short scenes and we are finally delivered into the nonsensical action we expect, well into the film’s second hour.

With The King‘s Man, Vaughn has made two films. The first, a period war drama. The second, a Kingsman prequel. Both films are well done and enjoyable but squashed together they become difficult to keep up with.

You Lookin’ at Me?


by Hope Madden

Oliver Stone’s cinematic output has been hit or miss. The hits leave a mark: Platoon, JFK, Salvador. Unfortunately, it’s been mostly misses this millennium.

But any time Stone has a topic that means something, one with government conspiracy and one hyper-serious guy trying to make things right, at least he’s in his wheelhouse.

Snowden offers him exactly that.

Opening with the clandestine meeting between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the journalists who would make the 2014 documentary Citizenfour (see it if you haven’t), Stone takes us through the harrowing journey that led to that taping.

Gordon-Levitt continues to impress in a performance that is eerily authentic. We see Ed as an optimistic patriot who becomes increasingly more outraged by what he sees and does with his high-security clearance for the CIA.

Interestingly, what the film itself lacks is outrage. Ed Snowden’s personality is very subdued. This no doubt benefitted his escapade, but it does not make for a vivid film.

And while vivid is Stone’s middle name, his attempts to enliven the story too often feel like tricks from an old bag: the mysterious mentor who conveniently shares information just when it’s most provocative; intensely suspicious camera angles; ominous score.

For the most part, though, Stone dials it down this time around, and that’s kind of a shame. Just a touch of the hyperbole and bombast of his usual fare might have benefitted a film that should deeply shock and appall, but does not.

Streamlining would have helped, as well. The 2+ hour running time sometimes feels like 3, often because Stone and his team of writers skim across so much information rather than digging deeply in a single area.

A large supporting cast includes some real gems – Zachary Quinto is especially good. Many of the minor characters, though, are so cartoonishly drawn (Rhys Ifans, in particular) that they distract from what is, in most areas, a reasonably realistic portrait.

There are just enough Stone-isms here to make the film irritating, but not enough to leave a mark. Despite strong performances and directorly panache, Snowden feels unfocused. Worse still, it lacks the gut punch that it should deliver.