Friday, October 31, 2014

Spy Films, 4 Gems You May Have Missed

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney,Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts
Sam Rockwell as a possible spy with perhaps the best cover in the world, as the producer of ludicrous US game shows, such as THE GONG SHOW. Perhaps the finest moment of this movie is when Sam Rockwell marries Drew Barrymore and then tells her in the limousine ride that he is a spy for the CIA. He is worried she will take it badly. Instead, she bursts out laughing and can't stop. We the audience can understand why. There has probably never been a more ridiculous spy in the history of spydom. 

He makes utterly tasteless over the top tv shows with the Gong Show being his lowest but most profitable moment in tv history. George Clooney is the spy who runs him and he also directed this film. Sam Rockwell was not very well known at the time he made this and he is still not a household name. However, he does a bang up job in this role and it is a heck of a part when you realize how ridiculous he has to be yet oddly credible too. I really enjoyed it and it certainly has its funny moments.

Three Days of the Condor: Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway
This is one of Sydney Pollack's 1970s films that put him on the map as a major film director. He and Redford would continue to make films together for years. Redford plays a quiet analyst for the CIA who doesn't do any of the flashy stuff. One day he goes out the back entrance to pick up lunch(one no one else knows about) and by the time he gets back, his entire building of agents has been gunned down. They were in a small building where they posed as a bunch of historical researchers. This wasn't that far off as they spent all day every day reading reports. 

Redford has a big problem because he realizes very quickly that the gunmen must come from inside the CIA as they knew the setup of the building too well. It was only by using the exit he shouldn't have used that he escaped their notice.

He realizes that the minute the gunmen realize they missed one, they will come after him. So he is on the run but he has no experience out in the field. He needs help so takes Faye Dunaway hostage. That is where the film's chemistry really takes off. The two of them are just fantastic together. I've seen this film several times and it never gets old. I tried reading the book once but it lacked the chemistry of the film so I didn't finish the book.

The Little Drummer Girl: George Roy Hill, Diane Keaton
This is based on the John le Carré novel. Charlie, the protagonist, is an actress who needs more excitement, more commitment in her life. This works out to Charlie's being recruited as a spy in the Arab-Israel conflict although Charlie is neither. She is an American. Although she can talk effectively about "the cause," throughout you get the feeling that it is the thrill, not the cause, which makes Charlie tick.

The filmmakers did one thing very, very right here. They cast Diane Keaton to play Charlie. Keaton is very capable of playing nuanced characters. She is utterly believable as an actress who decides spying is her new double life, that she will really make a big difference to the world as a spy. Keaton takes the whole movie upon her shoulders and runs with it. Her main task after her training is that she has to get very close to a terrorist on the other side, to have an affair with him. He is very attractive but deadly and you are not sure which, if either, will survive.


La Femme Nikita: Luc Besson, Anne Parillaud, Jean Reno

Luc Besson's French language film stars Anne Parillaud, who is rescued from death row by a top-secret agency to be trained as an assassin. This was remade in the USA as both a film and a tv series. It is this version which is the very best one though. For one, Luc Besson is an expert at this type of film. He is considered the French master of the action film.

But the two stars, Parillaud and Reno, are hardly slouches. Reno is a veteran of many films but this was early in Parillaud's film career. She is superb. She is off and running very early in the film and it is non stop action from there to the end. She has great style and panache and becomes a superb assassin. She is always about a moment from death herself though. Great fun from beginning to end.

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